KEEP YOUR HEAD TO THE SKY (I'm trying these days)
"You can only take care of yourself. There's nothing you can do about anything else that's going on right now." I hear that a LOT from my fellow 12 steppers. I hear it so much that I quit confiding to them about what truly disturbs me these days. Amadou Diallo. Trayvon Martin. Oscar Grant. Alan Bluford, Ezell Ford. Kimani Gray, Michael Brown. Eric Garner. and 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was by himself, playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. He was only five years older than my grandson. To me, he was still a baby. That isn't even close to the number of unarmed Black men who have been killed by police since 2007,
And people forget that an unacceptable number of Black women have been shot by the police, too. Oh, you didn't know? Seven year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot by Detroit policeman Joseph Weekley as she lay sleeping on the living room couch under a blanket. And there have been many, many more. Adaisha Miller. Alesia Thomas, Darnesha Harris. Eleanor Bumpers. Erica Collins. Heather Parker. Kendra James. Their names aren't as familiar as the others to the public, but that doesn't make a difference to me. They are no less dead. And that is no less tragic.
I admit that I have a temper. I keep it check so much that people have paradoxically described me as : "easygoing", "placid", even "comforting to be around". If only they knew the tsunami that broils inside of me at times such as these. I am reminded of a cartoon that I recently saw on Facebook. Los Angeles artist and radio show host Lalo Alacaraz drew it after self proclaimed vigilante George Zimmerman was found not guilty in July, 2013:
My own children are ages 33, 32 and 28, but it doesn't matter that they no longer live with me, and they haven't for years. I'm still their mother. And that cartoon very accurately and eerily captures what I feel each and every day. Not only that, I fear for my grandson. What kind of hateful world are we leaving for him to try to make his way through without the threat of being....I can't write that. Even the thought of losing my children and grandson is indescribably terrifying because it is more a reality than Freddy Kruger or any other monster Hollywood can invent. Those people I named before? They were real, as were the police who killed them.
Here's where my temper comes into play. When I have shared my fears with my 12 step friends, they respond in ways that are predictable (I've been in various programs since 1987), and as infuriating as being stuck on Interstate 80 between Oakland and Berkeley during the afternoon rush hour, and an extremely old lady has wedged her car across two lanes in front of you. And she doesn't seem to know how to straighten out her 1972 green Volvo station wagon to move with the traffic.
My 12 step friends mean well when they say, "It's not happening right now. All you can do is take care of yourself today." "There's nothing you can do about that. Just focus on working on your program today." Oh yes, the power of NOW. I can do that. It doesn't erase the fear, but I can perfunctorily get through each day NOW. I'm pretty that the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Michael Brown didn't wake up in the morning of those terrible days thinking, Oh yes, today's the day my son will be killed by the police, so I better find out who is going to do that so I can stop him! Not that they wouldn't do that if they had a very clear warning about what was going to happen. But no, that's not how life works, does it? Who knows what might happen at any time, When I think about it, they probably were doing the "just for today" thing because that's how many Black people get through life. Whew! Made it through my eight hours. Gotta pay the rent today. Do I have enough money for groceries after I pay the light bill?
Yeah, that's the for real "ODAT* (One Day At A Time, which should be ODAAT, but oh well.) And I feel like screaming, "What do YOU KNOW ABOUT IT? You don't know! Stop givin' me that pablum crap!"
That's what I feel like doing. What I really do is get off the phone with lightning speed, or walk away before the fingers on my right hand begin to automatically curl into a fist. I'm sorry, I did mention that I have a solar flare temper, didn't I? And with anger issues like mine, the last thing I need to do is give some trigger itchy cop a reason to take me out, too. There's no doubt in my mind that one of them would if I ever unleashed my anger, frustration, fear and resentment Besides, my friends have done absolutely nothing to deserve that. Other than annoying me with those redundant slogans, they have been supportive, kind and loving. And I'm ashamed of myself for harboring these thoughts.
So what can I do? First of all pray, which is what I do upon waking up, and throughout the day. My favorite to recite whenever I feel the anger bubbling up and threatening to ruin my mood and day is this: Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!- The Báb (Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 27) I say that prayer often.
I do work my program, try to do some professional writing and stay away from social media and MSNBC. That last part is not easy. I'm a journalist to the core, and we're all pretty incurable information junkies. I also pray for my family and friends, and for those who have lost their loved ones. And I try to remember to make my gratitude list. I do have so very much for which I am grateful. And then there is song by Earth, Wind and Fire. I fell in love with it the very second I heard it back in 1972 at age 14. It reminds me of what is most important in life: my personal relationship with the Almighty, the Creator of all there is. If you have the time, give it a listen.