What qualifies as amazing

A friend asked me about “three things that you find amazing” and I replied with:

First thing that is amazing to me is the possibility that there is enough fresh water on this planet for all of us, just as there is enough sunlight and solar rays for all energy needs. We’ve been socialized to believe that there are finite resources and that they must be fought over, hoarded and controlled. I just said possibility, it may be more fitting to say notion or reality.
Second amazing thing is how I am allowing more and more of the illogical to pervade. I am in a new phase, the post-intellect, that is more aptly returning to how we as humans and nature fundamentally are. This is a condition that gives rise to the recent curiosity about freshwater.
Third amazing thing are the new experiences, new challenges and new learnings in my lived experiences. I have been baking one loaf of sourdough bread a week for much of this calendar year. I began taking a six-week, fiction writing class at the community college this week where I was exuberant as I walked the hallways towards room 571 and after the inaugural class. I learn, read and ruminate the animal totems that I encounter around me. This week alone, they have included magpie, praying mantis (a white, albino one), and deer.

Prompts can tremendously help me out. Amazing is enticing.

Tending to unfinished business rather than bucket lists

I’ve had death and how our collective culture revolves around, relates to and treats death for the last month since my cousin died. I heard of his death in a car accident at midday on a Thursday.

Within a few days, I heard mention of Bucket Lists at least three times. And multiple other times in recent weeks. My emotions over the last month swam far, deep and wide. I have been quite irritated when I hear about “bucket lists” because a tone of jovial, fun-filled, and this-is-cool accompanies it. Much of my irritation is due to the material or experiential aspect of most things that populate these lists — hot air balloons, travel, bungee cord jumping. It feels like yet another instance where we are supposed to wear happy faces and feel great, even though most of our feelings about death and transition are not happiness nor greatness.

On the other hand, I first learned about Unfinished Business two years ago when I opened a first book by Elisabeth KublerRoss, which was either The Tunnel and the Light or On Death and Dying. Ahh, the joys of reading and the power that new ideas, when remembered, can have on altering my own life. Since first reading Kubler-Ross, Unfinished Business has become a counterpoint, or an antidote, to the Bucket List.

Unfinished business, according to a summary of how Kubler Ross described it to a six year old with a dying sister, is:

anything that you haven’t done, because this is your last chance to say or do anything you want to do, so that you don’t have to worry about it afterwards when it is too late.

Forgiveness. Love. Freedom. Permission. These are the simple and fundamental things in life. For some odd reasons (including attempts to control and manipulate others) we have a tendency to make life much more complex and messy than these staples.

_______

Unfinished business is affirmed by reading this list of the five biggest regrets (biggest wishes, in other words) of people approaching death, which was compiled by a palliative care nurse. The five biggest regrets/wishes are:

  1. wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.
  2. wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. wish I’d let myself be happier.

Courage. Live truly. Play. Express feelings. Touch. Happiness.

C.L.T.P.E.F.T.H. is a word game worthy of befriending the 5 As of David Richo: acceptance, affection, allowance, appreciation, attention.

_____

At this moment in my life, I am attending to finishing my business in this life by:

  • appreciating and celebrating people sooner, on the same day or as soon as possible
  • not holding onto grudges with family, friends, coworkers or strangers
  • eating well, sleeping when and as much as I can,
  • writing more and more by honoring the urge when it arises
  • telling my parents, siblings, more females and males that I love them
  • sharing the ways that love looks
  • letting go of the need to have someone say “I love you, too” after I tell them of my love.
  • responding “thank you” (rather than “I love you, too”) when someone tells me that they love me
  • eating chocolate and baking cookies or bread more often
  • accessing compassion (for others and myself) quickly
  • slowing down
  • recognizing that the only person’s who’s accolades and approval to concern myself with is me

it’s summer 2012, so get an intern.

Summer has begun. Are you feeling swamped, overwhelmed? Is your outbox (either mentally or the 20th century one on your desk) overflowing with incomplete items?

Here’s a bit of advice: get an intern.

A breath of fresh air. Metaphors, aside, an intern is a phenomenal way to disrupt the hoarding, amassing, isolating tendencies  at work. An intern requires frontloading, which is critical (for me as a procrastinator). Frontloading introduces, acquaints and gives an intern the context to figure out what’s in store during the summer experience. The beauty of frontloading is that it then provides me with the opportunity to get out of the way.

A few steps to get an internship under way are:

  1. Pick a few projects, especially those that have sat idle for months yet are sufficiently important that you are not forgetting them.
  2. How long? — 3 months from June-Aug is a very different arrangement than just 6 weeks.
  3. How much? — can be paid for compensation either in an hourly wage, a stipend? additional perks include providing access, training and paying the way for other ways to learn, gain skills and get access in the summer of 2012.
  4. Figure out the logistics — the basics are:
    are they working virtually or in the same office/space as you? will they have access to a desk, computer with internet access?
    the next level of logistics are:
    how often will you make yourself available to sit down with them? To assign new tasks, get updates, and address questions that have arisen. I have decided to have a weekly call every Tuesday afternoon.
    what documents, history + context will be sent to them?
    what email or web access will you provide them with? 
  5. what are the framing and overarching questions that will guide their work for the internship’s duration?

All in all, an internship is a welcome pivot for an office that has not had young students around. They bring fresh perspective, different ways of learning/researching/accessing, as well as how to navigate the internet.

Go on, and get hiring — our labor markets need it.

tell a story: of your life in two pages

I was born may 1978. My skin had a green hue to it under the lights of the hositpal’s maternity ward. Or so my two brothers thought, probably their own comic book projections. They called me the Hulk, in my mom’s presence, the first birth she had given where she had not taken any drugs – or shot to the spinal column. That was a big regret or surprise to her, because my head was many orders larger than the two others that passed through her birth canal. In addition to my 2 brothers, I have 1 sister who was also awaiting my arrival. My dad, supposedly, was awaiting a 2nd daughter, who he hoped to name Stephanie. He got me, instead.

So, I’m the last born. The final seed. In the early years, my status as the fourth of four meant that I was a spoiled baby, in the eyes of my 3 elders. My sister is 18 months older, one brother is 5 years older, and the other is 8 years older. We were the four-hued siblings, mulattoes born in the mile high city during the ‘70s. As, I’ve learned in the last decade, one of many outposts in fly-over country.

We jettisoned from 5280 early in my life. Kindergarten was in Denver, with 1st grade beginning in Nairboi, Kenya. After 10 years as an employment/discrimination lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, my dad joined the foreign service. Big lifestyle change in mid-career, as Reagan’s re-election campaign was ratcheting up. At that time, the State Department was the least diverse agency in all of the federal government. So issues of inclusion, access and race-at-work is in my genes. That was unbeknownst to me until a year ago. Guatemala followed Kenya. Virginia after that. Swaziland came after Kenya. Back in the U.S., I have lived in NM, CO, MN, NY and WA over the last 17 years.

Nearly one-half of my life has been back in the US, with the first half of my life lived was in Colorado and then as the son of a diplomat. Dad was trained as a lawyer, Mom was trained as a schoolteacher. Until she had my brother. Her passion for teaching shifted to PTAs, as my dad’s work was enough for them to raise a family. They bought a house in 1971 for $24K, which was one-fourth (or one-sixth) of my dad’s income at the time. They still own the same home, 40 years later.

Living abroad, I had functional Spanish, and elementary SiSwati. In hindsight, Swahili would have been curious, but it was my first place abroad and I was 6. In a place where getting accustomed to a new country was plenty. From one country to the next, good grades translated. I excelled in numbers and math, while I blumbered in English, literature and grammar. I have a fond memory of spelling, that was my forte in grade school. My mom inquired about writing assignments from my sister and me. At a certain point in elementary school, I only brought math homework, assignments and test home for updates. There were report cards at the end of a school period. But, I learned at an early age to cloak my writing to myself. The critique was more than I could stomach. So went to great lengths to avoid it.

For a few years, math was eclipsed by geography. I struggled with art, being artistic, and being creative. For some time early in high school, I was so scared that I resented art class. A few moves around, did place me in a setting to get to work on the yearbook by the time I was in high school. One year led to the next, and I was one of 3 yearbook editors. It was a wholly different medium, of published matter that captivated me. In exchange for a kick-ass cover illustration, we promoted a contest for a free yearbook for the best design. To my knowledge, we received a single submission. It was all that we needed. On a black cover, white dots from a white-out blotter to illustrate the sky, moon, letters and a castle tower.

That same year, I embarked into the first t-shirt making endeavor I was a part of. Again, we threw the conventional wisdom, the parameters and norms that had defined others and confined me. Instead, we put text and images on the chest and back. And deviated from the white/off-white backgrounds. I still have that tan colored shirt with orange illustrations. A long sleeve in dark brown, with the same orange were color combinations that awakened my peers.

I sustained my studies when still in high school. As dating and girls began to enter my life, I found that student groups gave me an outlet beyond the classroom intelligentsia. I had heard the duality of book-smarts and/or street-smarts for years. Along with life, certain subjects began to wane. It may have been the reading and writing components, as I still enjoyed the social aspects of learning together.

My relationship with books has evolved. I struggled with Shakespeare constantly. Literature blossomed late, relatively late. I had been a reader of non-fiction for so long. Although, reading Borges, Garcia Marquez and Richard Rive. Years later, I wonder if Rive was a foreboding to Chris Abani. Over the last decade, I have read a handful – yes, 5 – of books that have fundamentally altered my worldview and outlook on life: Botany of Desire, Spontaneous Healing, Fire on the Prairie, Kindred, and When the Past is Present. Just this week, I learned that Zora Neale Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in 12 weeks. As she left an intense relationship in NY for the Caribbean.

One way that the internet has impacted my life, is by making me more literary and finding more tools, and supports to nurture my voracious appetite for words and reading. If Cupid had a bookworm arrow, it missed me until I was out of college. My palatte opened up once I was no longer commanded to read. And directed what to read, irrespective of how dry or ho-hum it was.

I use the internet to read more about authors, their lives and the environments that affected them. I use my cell phone to note book titles and a list of authors that arise in conversations, on a whim, or in passing. My list has grown to more than 120 books. And the public library is one of the beloved public institutions. I have numerous library cards, three in my current possession. As an adult, I take the time (sometimes frequently, other times rarely) to visit the library for so long that I can wander through the stacks. It is a form of synchronicity and trusting the universe, long before I had read such phrases that apply directly to experiences that I have lived, known and breathed.

At this juncture of my life, my relationship with money is at the fore. As is my relationship with masculinity. After two and a half decades of leaving those stones unturned, I visit them often. Probably daily. I no longer want to perpetuate cultural norms that act oblivious to such powerful social forces.

I have less fear now of writing. Of debt. Of the unknown, the unpredictable, and the unseen. Less fear of unemployment. Less fear of myself, and my limitations. I delight in those.

I do not need to have the life of the generation before me. Yet, I was glad to realize it back then and be open to it going forward. Monumental changes made for a tumultuous 2010. 2011 was an era of rebirth, renewal and redirection.

Death has been lingering, maybe since Buddy’s passing in January 1997. The first death of a family member since Gma Shirley had died 9 or 10 years earlier. Death at 18 in the states felt very different than it had at 8 outside. It felt isolating, confusing and fracturing in Guatemala. There had been ridiculing, shaming and enough punishment that the one time I recall crying over Shirley’s death was inside the warmth of my fleece jacket one day during lunch. It was overcast overhead, seated on some bleachers overlooking a soccer field, and I shut the world out in order to cry inside my red pullover.

Tracing slavery

Baltimore, Philly and Greensboro just aint the same after reading Octavia Butler’s science fiction on time traveling into slavery. Kindred — first published in 1997. First picked up by me in mid-August 2010.

I’ve trampled over history this summer of 2010. Looked at leaves swaying along the interstate south of Philadelphia. Seen Black youth, Black families and Black communities with new eyes. New eyes cast having read about the slave trade, migration routes, escape routes, and movement of commerce.

I sat in a branch of the Durham Public Library, pulling books edited by Ishmael Reed and Member of the Club, a collection of articles written by Lawrence Otis Graham. Slavery doesn’t look the same now that it sits on the other side of the wall. A wall capable of taking my arm off, as it did to Dana/Edana in Kindred.

Atrocities of commerce. Or was it genocide borne of commerce, in visiting Colorado’s Camp Amache and Sand Creek Massacre. According to the War Department, Amache was called the Granada War Relocation Center.

All this, for a mulatto in miscegenation nation.

Freelance as racken

I am sharing a set of thoughts that drives my sense of the multi-faceted promises of freelancing. Informed inlarge part by the concept of “racken” in MPollan’s _Omnivores Dilemma_. Racken is ‘rabbit + chicken.’ it is accomplished (by Joel Salatin in OmniDilemma) by building an unorthodox rabbit coop. Rabbit urine and feces fall onto sawdust or hay that chickens then peck through seeking worms. It results in more resources and less waste by constructing a different way of interacting. Simple solution, yet profound shift.

From my vantage, I’m convinced there’s ways that with coordination (and less control/controlling of others) we can —
… work better (more effectively)
… see more realized
… with more people
… contributing their small piece(s)
… with less isolation
… thus, being more (free) and less (burdened, stressed, over-committed).

I use the term ‘coordination’ more often. As it requires unlearning the ways of work we have been traditionally instructed. We have to unlearn in order to ask for help; to admit the limits of our knowledge. These have been molded to suggest weakness, incompetence or lack of commitment.