My Dear Friends and Readers,
There was such a sense of desperation last night in Washington D.C.’s Union Station. I saw it in the haggard faces of the D.C. food service workers who work in Union Station, but who live in Baltimore, like I do.
They come to D.C. because there is no fast food service job that pays 15 dollars an hour in Baltimore. Our Mayor Catherine Pugh would not sign the bill that would make the city’s minimum wage $15 over a period of years. I understand our Mayor ‘s position. She inherited a post “Freddie Gray” Baltimore with our Consent Decree and our failing school system with a 150 million dollar deficit.
I travel from Baltimore to D.C. because there are no six-figure legal jobs for me in Baltimore. While I am in no way equating my position with that of the service workers, last night I had the privilege to attend “Ballet Across America” at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and therefore caught a glimpse of people who I don’t usually pay attention to during my daily commute to D.C.
“Ballet Across America” curated by prima ballerina, Misty Copeland, and the audience attending it reflected what is best about America -our diversity and ingenuity. Last night’s performance epitomized inclusiveness and creativity. I am hopeful we will continue to have such diverse offerings at the Kennedy Center. I am hopeful because Michelle Obama sits on Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees as does the current First Lady, Melania Trump. I believe these two trustees will keep a melange of creativity alive at the Kennedy Center.
In this past week of downtime, the Ballet was the highlight of a week spent reading novels and writing fiction. It was a time off from work because there was no “over flow” legal work to perform at the D.C. law firm where I am a contract worker. Rather than be upset about this unexpected loss of income, I chose to indulge my self in a low-cost , low-restful reading vacation.
As a writer when not writing we should be reading. I read Toni Morrison’s “A Mercy”; Tea Obreht’s “The Tiger’s Wife” and Isabelle Allende’s the “Japanese Lover”. I chose these three diverse female authors to saturate myself in great writing from around the world. Obreht is from Belgrade, Yugoslavia and is under 40 years of age and lived through the bitter inter-ethnic Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s. Morrision is an African American woman in her 80’s who has won a Pulitzer and Nobel Peace Prize for fiction. Allende is from Chile and is the niece of former Chilean dictator, Salvador Allende.
While the books and the ballet have been transformational, what has truly altered my perspective and presence in the world has been Landmark Education’s Seminar called Happiness. The 4 sessions which I have listened to has ingrained in me the truth that life happens; how we choose to perceive and interpret life is up to us.
Most of us intellectually comprehend this premise, but few of us are called to practice interpreting life in the moment; instead we react based on our past experiences. This is normal and appropriate behavior for many things like walking or driving a car. However, these automatic behaviors can lead us to being unthinking emotional reactive robots.
The Happiness Seminar is breaking up and forcing me to observe and analyze my past based beliefs and subsequent behaviors.
As a result of this self introspection I have access to new life constructs, since realizing that many of my beliefs about life and happiness had been blindly inherited and accepted and believed. I now believe that I am the source of all of my emotions based on how I interpret the events in my life. So, instead of being depressed by my lack of work, I made my “lay-off” a delightful respite from the practice of law.
Life is a series of rapidly changing events that we interpret and take actions upon based on our interpretations of these events. I have now come to believe, if you are going to create a story about your life experiences, create one that makes you happy.
I do not remember much about my early life in Washington D.C. I arrived in D.C., I believe right before my fifth birthday and started Kindergarten at George Truesdale Elementary School in N.W. Washington D.C. that September in 1961. Today, one of my class mates came to visit. Her name is Letitia. (I won’t mention her first name.) What Letitia gave to me that Saturday afternoon was a stunning verbal portrait of what she remembers about me when we were in the third grade.
As the day approached when Letitia was supposed to visit, I was warned by friends, that this woman who allegedly knew me from the third grade, might be a deranged stalker and that I should meet her in a public place. I entertained those thoughts, but if I had let them win, then the magic of a third grade friend who had not seen me in 50 years would somehow be slightly diminished. So, I met her at my condo in Baltimore.
First, Letitia told me that me and my older sister, had abruptly left the third grade in the middle of the year. I don’t remember that. I will have to ask my sister, and more importantly I will have to visit my mother. Nevertheless, Letitia recalls unequivocally that I was a nice person. This was great to hear because the only stories that my family has re-told about me were those of my rage and violence and my refusal to be comforted.
Yes, those stories are true, but no-one seemed to remember any funny or happy or kind stories about me. True, there was the time, when I was six while playing kickball in my grandmother’s back yard I kicked my big toe against a piece of raised cement walkway. The toe-nail of my big toe was split in half all the way to the cuticle and it was bleeding.
I don’t remember whether I screamed from the hurt of the toe or that I missed the ball which I had planned to kick with such vengeance. A blood curdling screamed stopped 9 kids who had been playing kickball suddenly froze. My older sister came to comfort and take care of the toe. I pushed her away. I don’t remember what she said, but I know that since that remembered moment, I have always hid my pain in silence and aloness.( I don’t know why I have such foolish pride and never show my pain.) All of my childhood stories end with people being hurt and my rage and then remorse. However, when Letitia told me I was a nice person, a ray of light entered into that collected past. She was an unbiased outsider who was looking in.
Letitia told me that she had not spoken at all in the third grade, after our teacher had embarrassed her on the first day of class. She told me that she sat acros the room from me and stared at me through out the year. I did not know she was doing this. I do not remember her at all, yet I know she was in the third grade with me because she remembered the names of classmates who I did remember, including my first grade boyfriend, Andre.
I asked Letitia if I wore nice clothes to school and she said “I remember one dress that you wore. It was a deep burgundy tartan plaid with a bow at the back. You wore flats, with pointed toes,” She added.
“Wow, I don’t remember those clothes,” I replied.
“Yes, you always had nice clothes- and earrings,” She said.
“Earrings?” I asked. I knew that my ears had been pieced at birth but I don’t recall wearing earrings unti I was 11 and in the fifth grade.
“Yes, long dangly ones with crystals. You had red crystal earrings that matched your dress- the burgundy plaid.”
This was all so odd to hear, yet it she was confirming that I was really a sweet gentle little girl at one point of my life, for the question I have asked about that time of my life was “What was wrong with me?” Answering that question has been the emotional journey of my adult life.
Yet, on that warm Saturday afternoon in March, my third-grade friend and I sat down and talked about what happened after I had suddenly left third grade. We talked about my book and my blog- which is how she found me. We dined and then after signing the book, which she had already read, she said, “I only drink oolong tea.”
“I have some, it’s Organic,” I said as I went to brew her tea.
Here are pictures from that afternoon.
This is my Plant of Hope. I have learned that hoping without continuous focused effort produces little or nothing. The bigger the game, the greater amount of action is required. People sometimes “fail” because they fail to put in the required amount of action or the correct action . Along the way with careful observation one learns to balance this action/result ratio. Balance requires knowing when things are out of balance and then restoring it. I have spent my life re-tooling my balance, for life is constantly knocking all of us off balance. It is something that we must constantly refine.
Over the past 10 weeks I have commuted three hours round trip and billed 10 hours every day. In my spare time, I have kept myself healthy and worked on my second novel, “Twisted.”
Over these past ten weeks, I have also applied to sit on one of the advisory boards for Baltimore City. In addition, I have begun the paperwork to create a non-profit that encourages children to read. The foundation will be called “Write On!”
I believe if you can write a story, you can write your life. If you can read you can escape the boundaries of the physical earth. I know, as a child I escaped through reading.
But back to the plant. I took a picture of that plant at the first of this year, at that time the plant looked dead:
It takes courage and faith to stay in action, especially when things look bleak as this plant did when I planted it. But my belief and desire that I could make it grow kept me watering it regularly. I also looked at it carefully every day. For many days I saw the same dead looking plant. A month into this campaign the plant showed the tiniest bit of growth and I was over joyed.
Here’s a picture of the plant on January 29th of this year.
During these ten busy weeks, I did not neglect the plant. I made time to care for it because it was important to me. That’s just what you do when you have competing commitments. You must pay attention to all things important or they wither, die and disappear.
While I call this my Plant of Hope it is also my Plant of Love, because that’s what you do when you love someone, you make time to care and nurture. Plants are a great metaphor for life. Find something to grow, whether it be a plant, a career, a relationship or hobby.
I will take the next photo in April.
With Love and Light,
For all the Valentines out there who are still waiting for flowers; go buy your own. I don’t mean to be unkind, but I have learned that if you really want something go get it for yourself out of self-love/care.
I know Valentine’s Day is a day for Romantic Love, the time you make sure “they” know that you care-even if you show your care all the time. I, like many of you, am not in a romantic relationship. I have male friends, but that’s not the same. I have girl friends who have wished me happy Valentine’s Day, but while I love them- I won’t be cuddling with any of them tonight.
For some Valentines Day is one of carnal love, which may include some romance, I would take both and add intimacy that allows honesty and vulnerability. I know, for many of us, it’s a day that makes many of us sad. Here’s what I know, when one truly loves themselves you spend your life being in life. When you are in life there is no past or future …or Valentine’s Day, it’s just today, another day you gave to yourself and did your best with what you had.
Brianna S. Clark
A couple of weekends ago, I was troubled about what was going to happen after the Women’s March on Washington. I knew that with this Administration, a protest would not be enough-at least not one protest. Thankfully, good Americans have not stopped protesting.
I am grateful and proud of all of my colleagues who came to the aid of those banned by this Administration’s sweeping ban of Muslims, from Sally Q.Yates, acting attorney general who Trump fired, to every immigration attorney who met with those who were wrongly denied entry and for every judge who stood up said “No”. No to racism, no to harming the already weak, poor, destitute, no to harming the air, water and land. Yes, this Administration has proposed cuts to food stamp programs and dismantling laws that protection the environment. At some point this cruel regime will touch your life-no matter how wealthy and protected you maybe or feel. Do something. Give money or time or both. I have been and I will continue to do so. What will you do?
Brianna S. Clark