A LOOK BACK ON JEALOUSY AND ENVY

My Dear Readers,

Four years ago, about this time of year, I went into a tailspin caused by my addiction to a man who I thought I was losing to a younger woman. What I had done was drive over to his home unannounced- thinking I would find him with the woman that I feared he was interested in. He was alone and shocked that I had driven to his home.

As a result of what I call a “drive-by” I began to question my understanding of what love was and was not.

The premise of jealousy is that you the jealous person can be replaced. However, we all know at an intellectual level that we are not fungible or replaceable. But tell that to a person in the grips of jealousy. As one author put it “jealousy is like trying to stop a moving car on ice”. The following story  exemplifies a time when I was both envious and jealous.
I was dating a man to whom I was addicted to or some would say that I was codependent with.   My husband had died. I was fearful of being alone. I was scared of living alone. I was afraid that I would not know how to financially take care of myself and that I would end up homeless, man less and on the streets of Baltimore. So to say that myself esteem was missing is an understatement.  The worry of caring for my late husband, who I had idolized both in life and death had worn me out and aged me. I was depressed. I brooded and I had extreme self-loathing of   my aging psychical self. At the same time, I was a pleaser and caretaker that I had always been. Taking care of my dying husband had made me more so.Dave the man who I was dating was the perfect “temporary” guy. . He was a little in awe of me and the kind of man that I felt was “safe.” No one was going to claw their way to get to him.  While I verbally berated Dave, inwardly I was desperately afraid that he would leave me for a younger woman because there was a 7 year age difference between us. Automatic behavior kicked in and I waited on Dave’s every need.  Yet, I did not receive the kind of acknowledgement that I had received from my grateful and dying husband. Dave responded in the way a teenager is pleased with finding himself with a B rated former sex star. The more I catered to Dave, the more I loathed myself and projected that loathing on to him.

So, here’s what happened. It was in mid-October four years ago. Dave had been busy running his small underfunded business. He was swamped and overwhelmed. He and I had not seen each other for a week, which was unusual. He had called every night explaining his absence and for six days I had pretended that his absences were ok. In the meantime, Dave and his single young attractive female colleague with whom he worked had been spotted spending a lot of time together. This caused me suspicion. This young woman who I had always believed to be in love with Dave, was incredibly accomplished and had been honored with the highest honors of her profession.

With a second malicious report of spotting them together reached me and when Dave had not shown up that week, I was at high alarm. I was sure that he had taken up with her. In my madness of jealousy I put together disparate incidences of times that they had been together and I was jealous. I was being replaced by some young nincompoop!

When on the seventh night Dave had begged off, I got into my car and performed a “drive by.” The angry knock on the door was necessary. Dave opened the door and was puzzled.  Hadn’t he just said that he was not feeling well? Why was I there? When I told him my suspicions, he said that they were completely unfounded.  And then he made it worse and said that even if he was seeing her, that he and I did not have an exclusive relationship and that he didn’t have to hide anything from me. This was fire on gasoline. I called him every ugly name. Dave never raised his voice or was loud. He was simply amazed to see what he thought was such a put together woman falling apart. He offered me water and I could see the pity and alarm in his eyes, which shamed me even more. My ego and I had no place else to go, but to stalk out and leave him. But as I did so, my heart was breaking. I realized that I was totally out of control and it wasn’t about Dave, it was about me.
I had gotten lost and afraid. My erratic behavior had scared me into realizing that I needed to find myself; to re-invent myself. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. I had to learn to like myself. I had to learn to live alone. I had to learn to take care of myself on my own for myself. The journey to finding myself or finding the beloved within myself is the basis for my second book, which is tentatively named “Twisted”.
I have set myself on the path that is right for me. I have accepted myself and know emotionally that love is within and not found without. I also learned that someone’s attraction to another or desire for another does not lessen me in any way. At my most secure self, at your most secure self, you know your intrinsic worth.  The first step in anything is awareness. When you catch yourself being envious pay particular attention to what and who you are being envious about. Then ask yourself, “Why is it that I feel that I cannot attain that?”  Before you get to the point of insane jealousy ask yourself why you are jealous of that other person who is trying to take your place? Perhaps the question to ask yourself is “Where is my place?” These are not easy or short term skills to develop. However, understanding that envy and jealousy relates to our own lack of self-esteem might provide us with the necessary next steps. Remember it’s not them; it’s you.
Signed,Brianna S. Clark
Your Fellow Journeyer

#ENDHOMELESSNESS

My Dear Readers,

I have an unusual relationship with the homeless who I see everyday as I walk the eight blocks each way from my home to my office and back. One reason I care about the homeless is that for a few months after I had gotten out of rehab and evicted out of my apartment, I was homeless. No, I did not live on the streets or in a shelter- my home was my 325 E BMW.  In my car I had everything that was important to me, my computer, my clothes and everything that could fit in the back seat and trunk of my car.

After I got out of rehab, I had no family or friends. After all, who wants to hang out with a former crack cocaine addict? That was 20 years ago. I don’t recall exactly how long I remained without a permanent address- maybe three or four months. But it was long enough to never allow me to forget. Anybody, for countless reasons can find themselves homeless- get sick and lose your job and fail to go to the right government agencies and one can find themselves homeless- regardless of your level of education. I was a lawyer when I become homeless.

So, each day I chat with my group of homeless “friends.” Brad pictured above has been adopted by people in my Baltimore neighborhood of Mt. Vernon. He has fortunately situated himself at the bus stop at Charles Street and Chase Street. At one end of his block there is an old hotel called the Belvedere; across the street is the Chase Brexton Medical clinic- which was a gift to our community by a private charity which was created years ago to give medical care to HIV positive gay men. At the other end of  Chase Street is my condo building. Because of the  members of these three big entities that dominate our end of the Mt. Vernon Community, Brad drinks designer coffee and eats organic sandwiches and is given clothes and  medical care.

I do not write about Brad because we, me, our community has done such a great job. We need to do more. Each day, I see growing numbers of homeless people, many of them young people with their clothes in large see-through bags that they get from the homeless shelters in which to put their items. It is heart breaking.

One of the things that has been repeatedly said by Republicans and the Republican Presidential Nominee is the desire to repeal Obamacare. One of the major components of “Obamacare” is the treatment of mental illness. Many of our homeless are homeless because they are mentally ill. In this country where the 1% owns 94% I hope that our next president will make greater in-roads in solving the many problems of education, the elderly and the homeless population.

My dollar here or there may or may not make a life changing difference to a homeless person. Yes, they may use my money to buy alcohol or drugs- or maybe they just need some food. So, I give them whatever change I can spare.  It is what I do.

I hope all of you will join me in making an effort regardless how small to end homelessness- not just in Baltimore or Maryland or America, but world-wide. It’s a big vision, but start with your neighborhood, your community. If everybody does a little bit we can make a big difference.

With light and love,

Brianna S. Clark
Your Fellow Journeyer

IN HOPE OF AN AMERICAN MELTING POT

Dear Readers,

This weekend I watched as much as I could of “Birth of A Nation” a beautifully photographed well thought out script of  a story of the slave Nat Turner who was taught to read and who ultimately became a preacher. The real story is not of this man’s brutal revenge on his white slave masters but the story of how a man who was mistreated long enough to turn into a man who led other slaves to rebel against and murder their white masters.

It was a painful story and a vivid reminder of  what it might have been like for poor white masters holding on to the human capital with which they created their income. It’s a story that could only end in Civil War which was a war about slavery- despite the fact that historians argue that it was about State versus Federal rights. Humans cannot enslave other humans and speak the words of democracy and equality for all.

Race has been the most used word to describe the division in our country. I believe that racism is still rampant.  I also believe that the issue of race hides the real issues which are education and economics.The huge  under-educated population of all races are angry. These people of all races and both genders who are under-educated live in a rapidly changing technological world where they are not trained, educated or equipped to fully participate.  This huge  population  compete for limited jobs in service or sales or manufacturing. These jobs do not pay them enough to get out of  their working poverty much less, change their economic status. These people feel left behind and left out.

The media and the Internet don’t help the divisions in our country. At best these divisions are reported using highly edited and slanted video on local and national news stations and are not always “unbiased” reporting. As amazing at the world wide web maybe it is also a place of  wrong or false misinformation. It’s hard to tell what is really real anymore or whether it has been  photo-shopped and created to fit some one’s agenda.

In the last few days there have been leaks hacked from the campaign of our Democratic Presidential Nominee and at the same time women coming forward accusing our Republican Nominee of  unwanted sexual contact. I have stayed far away from television and politics- except for seeing “The Birth of a Nation.”

There were only a handful of people watching the movie- which has been labeled a “flop”. I wonder if a pre-release story of the film maker’s former accusation of rape held movie goers at home or whether we as a country  simply hope that our unspeakably long history of enslaving people will simply fade from our collective memories. Out of sight out of mind.  There are as many reasons as one could conjure  as to why this beautiful movie about a terrible event in our history was so avoided by everyone.

However, in the midst of this time where the issue of race and gender rage on,   today I ran into the young lady who is the subject of the photo of today’s blog. She was the subject of an earlier blog called “THE NARROW BOX OF RACE”.  I wrote that blog about race when I met this bi-racial  young woman. Her mother is Caucasian and her father is  African American and Asian. I spoke to her today about race and the election. She reported being appalled by both candidates but that she was going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she was “the lesser of two evils.”

This young woman who is  African American yet who doesn’t appear to be Black is a growing part of America  where 6.9 % of adults  have at least two races in their background. The majority of these mixed race people say they are proud to be multi-racial, but more than half of them say  they have been subjected to racial slurs or jokes or people have made assumptions about their race. The hope is that as this population of bi-racial adults grows larger perhaps we as a country will stop seeing our nation’s issues as white versus non-white or even Republicans versus Democrats or Women vs. Men or Young vs. Old, but rather look to see what the real issues are. I believe those issues are not enough higher education for all and better paying jobs that reflect better education.

We are about three weeks away from an election that could literally alter the face of America. Hopefully our largest population- the Millennials- will use their high level of education and their genuine hope for a better world and vote. We understand that that group of young people  are of high moral fiber and frown on anything that appears corrupt or dishonest.  I believe this group will be the problem solvers of our time. Hopefully they will provide an opening for an America willing to deal with the bigger issues that hide behind the mantle of race.

With Light and Love,

Brianna S. Clark
YourFellowJourneyer

HOW MY ROTTEN CHILDHOOD GAVE ME THE GIFT OF RESILIENCE

My Dear Readers,

When I was 19 my  favorite song was “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Croft. The first line of the song begins Diamond Girl-you sure do shine.  I heard a live version of the song when I was 19 and the song was introduced like this “My Baby is Sharp, Hard and Expensive.”  I took that line to be my mantra.

Years later when in a therapist’s chair- this after my stint in drug rehab- I asked my therapist why do some children survive abuse and do okay and why do so many others become statistics? My therapist told me about a study conducted in Hawaii. The study was called the Kauai Longitudinal Study. This study  traced the developmental paths of a multiracial group of children who had been exposed to chronic poverty, chronic family discord and parental psychopathology. The study followed the children at different phases of their lives from ages 1, 2, 10, 18, and 32 years of age. The study began in 1955.  Why did some of these children thrive and others just survive? The bottom line answer was that the children who managed to survive their early childhood trauma had the ability to engage and resilience.

So what is the ability to engage? To put it simply engagement is the ability to get someone’s attention. The children who “overcame” their early childhood trauma were able to engage someone to help them. That’s it. It took getting somebody to pay attention to them, to care and take corrective action.

Throughout my life I have had people who were willing to engage with me. As a child, the engagement of caring adults saved my life. Those caring adults each took  action that got me to the career counselor in high-school -who found the lawyer who filed my case in court and where a judge emancipated me when I was sixteen.  That was a lot of caring by a number of people who believed my story and believed in me.

The other aspect of survival for those of  us who come from less than fairy tale homes is resilience.
The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and to come back stronger than ever. That’s what had happened to me as a child. I became resilient out of the pure desire to never let my parents believe that their behavior was ok with me. It was not. It never will be.
Therapists agree with me “Resilience seems to develop out of the challenge to maintain self-esteem.” This occurs because survivors draw boundaries between themselves and troubled parents.

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient. Among these factors is a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. These qualities allow people who attain resilience the ability to change course and to soldier on. At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself- which is the one thing that I have always had. I believed in me when no one else did. The other piece of resilience is the belief in something bigger than oneself.  I shared that belief as well. I believe in the inherent goodness of people, despite what I saw and experienced on a daily basis.  I also believed that someday my experiences would help other people and they have.

While some scientists argue that resilience is inherited others say it can be cultivated. I believe both are true. Some people do differ in their ability to handle stress better than others. Some people because of their trauma lose their ability to handle stress, but if one sees oneself as capable and competent it is possible to survive the darkest times.

Evidence shows that its not really until adulthood that people begin to surmount the difficulties of childhood and rebuild their lives. As Hara Estroff Marano writes in her article “The Art of Resilience”  “Resilient people don’t walk between the raindrops; they have scars to show for their experience. They struggle- but keep functioning anyway.”

Marano continues to say that ” A troubled family can indeed inflict considerable harm on its children, but resilient people are challenged by such troubles to experiment and respond actively and creatively. Their pre-emptive responses to adversity, repeated over time, become incorporated into their inner selves as lasting strengths.

As an adult I can say that I have cultivated insight. I have the mental habit of asking myself hard questions and finding honest answers for myself. I take charge of problems and I stretch and test myself. I am glad I have done so. I hope that  others can learn do so as well.

With Light and Love,

Brianna S. Clark
Your Fellow Journeyer

GETTING TO PERFECT

My Dear Readers,

Scott Peck, psychiatric medical doctor and author wrote is his book “The Road Less Traveled”  that EVIL can be defined as anything that takes away from LIVE. In other words, anything  that takes away from life and living is evil. Let’s sit with that for a moment.

These days it appears we need umbrellas even on a sunny days. What do I mean when I say this?
This weekend we heard the Republican nominee say sexist, ugly statements about power and money. There was no-one that I know who found joy in discovering that a man who has come so close to becoming president of the United States speaks the way which was uncovered this weekend. On top of all of the negative political news this weekend, which was punctuated with a tense televised national debate, there was Hurricane Matthew who had left Haiti devastated- again. This is what I mean when I say even on sunny days we feel we need an umbrella.

Clearly, our nation is at a cross-roads. There are many Americans who feel forgotten, left behind and disenfranchised. Our next president will have to address these national issues and the many issues facing international communities, nations  and continents world-wide.  In these moments and times, what do we as individuals do to stabilze ourselves, our lives, in what seems to be an unstable and disintergrating world?

I have pondered the answer to this question for many years and here’s the answer: Get to perfect.

Here’s how I got to perfect: The universe is perfectly designed. Things happen either good or bad- which is an opinion- not a fact. For instance, rain can be good for the farmer, bad for the bride with the outside wedding, etc.  So, regardless of our opinion things happen.  There are some events which are generally considered bad: murder, racism, child abuse, elder abuse, animal abuse, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and sunamis are all generally considered bad or evil or natural disasters. “Good” tends to be more diverse and includes all things sourced from Love.

Getting to perfect requires an acceptance of the current, immediate “now”  and a willingness to do something about it; or disprove its sense of being all pervasive. In an every day practice getting to perfect requires an acceptance of things like traffic; rain when you want sunshine; heat when it is cold; cool when it is stiffling hot and the willingness to accept that’s the way it is right now. It doesn’t have to be “that way” forever. What can you do in the mean time? What actions are required and appropriate? Asking and answering these questions put us into solving the issue rather than wallowing in our frustration, anger, dissapointment and inaction.

I suppose getting to perfect requires flexibility, the ability to pivot and options. The level of which one has the ability to  pivot, to be flexible and to have options determines the ease or quickness of getting to perfect. Worrying or agonizing about what you cannot change is a receipe for frustration. Acceptance of what we cannot change- like weather or traffic- is the first step to getting to perfect. Oh, I’m going to be late. That’s perfect because… I can’t go outside and garden… perfect I can now clean out that drawer, closet, the refrigerator. I admit, it’s not always easy or possible to pivot and make another choice or take another action or make an alternative plan. You can choose how you feel or react, even better yet you can pivot from the negative emotion even if that’s your first reaction, it doesn’t have to be your continuing or final emotion.

Getting to perfect is not a form of denial. Denial requires a refusal to accept reality. Getting to perfect requires an intimitate and close up relationship with reality inorder to pivot quickly and effectively.
I think the greatest value of getting to “perfect” quickly is not spending a lot of time in anger, dissapointment and suffering from wanting something that clearly is not going to happen- at least not in the moment. When one plunges into despair or rushes to anger, declaring “It’s perfect” allows these emotions to dissapate faster. From making a declaration of “perfect” allows for the new and unexpected to be created.  In fact, declaring “it’s perfect” creates an unexpected future in which to live into.

Try it the next time the unexpected or the unwanted occurs. It may seem  an empty statement at first, but over time declaring “it’s perfect” opens the door to the new, the different, the unexpected that one discovers from pivoting and choosing what is in the now.

With love and light,

Brianna S. Clark,
Your Fellow Journeyer

photo credit: www.digicrea.be – Analog & Open Source Photography <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/128124352@N08/28849755361″>Friendship</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

ITS BEEN A HARD DAY AND NIGHT

The photo of the female Episcopalean priest is an example of the inroads women have made in all professions. This woman and I met in a coffee shop and I took the photo. In opposite is the picture of the 12 year old  Afghan child bride. I am saddened that young girls are being married off to become wives when they are still children. According to the International Center for Research on Women, one third of girls in the developing world are married before they are 18.  One in 9 are married before they are 15.

This week was revealing to me about me. This week I took off my mask, showing my audience what I looked like make-up free. Equally illuminating, is the persona, the person who I present to the world which is reflected in the selfie of me in sun glasses on my way to work this morning.

I dealt with people in various forms of crisis. I had to portion out and balance how much I could give to each. It is wisdom that deals with competeing needs. I did something which I have not done in the past, which was ask for help.  I am particularly proud that I took care of myself. I ate well and I excercised and got at least six hours of sleep each night.

I am grateful for the friends who came to my rescue this week, even though all of us knew that all I needed was the knowledge of the team behind and before me and  by each side.

I had accepted several challenging commitments, each within themselves  possibly overwhelming.   I performed at my heighest level of possible performance. I am saddened for some of the choices that I had to make for the good of the group. Those descisions are always hard.

There are uncountable challenges in the world today. Find the best in  your life.  Hold on . Add to it.  Give some away. Share.

Let’s keep striving.

With light and love,

Brianna S. Clark
Your Fellow Journeyer