Check Your Personal Equality Climate

“The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.” ~Julian Bond (Founder of Southern Poverty Law Center, and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

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So many of us live in fear. I’m not saying that we go around hiding or shaking in our boots (though some might). What I am saying is that many of us operate out of fear, rather than love, and it shows in the way we treat people — even in our silence. 

If we operated from love, I wouldn’t be writing this, and the world would look a whole lot different!  For one, the conversations about race and gender inequality wouldn’t exist because neither subject would carry weight. We would treat family like… well, family! We wouldn’t see power-hungry bosses and co-workers stepping on others to gain ground or intimidate. We wouldn’t see power struggles in relationships, nor abuses of various kinds. Bullying would be unknown. We wouldn’t have the need to prove our superiority over another.

The current climate has brought out all kinds of fear; you can hear it in conversations and it thumps around in daily life. This is nothing new, but I suggest that the energy in our spaces right now has forced this nastiness upward and forward from the mires. Sometimes fear looks like hate; sometimes it looks like anger; sometimes it looks like sadness, or many other related negative emotions and actions. What it doesn’t look like is love for all, including love for self. Cooperation, collaboration, and affinity are abundantly missing in all walks of life.

Some of us are fearful of losing something if we contribute to others — the “what” that we fear is boundless. It could be money, footing, stature, reputation, family, friends, love… you name it! Unfortunately, when motives are fear-driven they come out in ways that we have several labels for, i.e., hate, bigotry, violence, misogyny, rudeness, bitterness, racism, homophobia, etc. I cannot imagine that there is one among us who never falls into the fear trap.  I know I fall, and it is not pretty!

Though there are clearly many ways love and fear is each expressed, for the sake of this post, I am particularly speaking about making room for others to be on the same ground. I am talking about the absolute truth of helping, giving, allowing others to be and have the exact same allowances and how we do not lose a single thing in the process.  Many who are “on top” view equal rights as a pie, and feel that if they give another the exact same space that they are in, that they lose a piece of their ground or a slice of their pie.  But this is only true when we are speaking about an actual pie! (But even then I will argue that sharing is awesome, and you’ll still receive a wonderful intangible in return!) 

Self-reflection time:  Where in your life do you take issue with another having what you already have, be it property, pay, rights, housing, health… anything?  Where in life do you hear yourself complaining about another that has requested the same fairness in life that you receive?  If at this point the voice in your head just said, “I’m not prejudiced, but…,” or “I’m not a bigot, but…,” or “I believe in equal rights, but…,” or “I’m not a racist, but…,” or “I’m always nice, but….”  Man, your “but” just told all about what’s really going on. Did you hear it? It was REALLY FAST so you might have missed it.  Our “buts” will show our butts every time!

If at THIS point you have now gone into the discussion about “deserving,” and who deserves or doesn’t deserve something, you’re deflecting.  Yes, you really are. This looking at self in the mirror thing doesn’t always feel good (at first), but it’s a practice we all need to be in.  Your view of life is not the same as another’s, and it is no less or more accurate either. It is no less or more important. Your view and experience of life is not THEE view or experience, rather merely one in a myriad of views and experiences. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Where are you not listening to someone’s struggle, or discounting their account of life?
  2. When do you diminish others and their experiences based on their occupation, neighborhood, family, gender, skin color, religion, history, etc? 
    • And the bigger question: WHY are you doing that?
  3. Why are we afraid to accept that life plays out differently for others, especially someone who has lived a completely different life?
  4. Why do we have such a hard time admitting that we either just don’t understand, or that we just don’t give someone from a different culture or walk of life the consideration they really deserve?
  5. Why is it we want others to give us a break and understand where we are coming from, but we don’t give that regard to someone whose shoes we’ve never stepped into and have had very little or no affiliation?
  6. Why does someone else deserve less than we expect to receive when we want to be heard and understood?

Is it really any wonder why we see anger from marginalized groups? 

“When I uplift even one to equal standing, I lose nothing and gain it all — not only for myself, but for all of us. Likewise, the converse is true.  Remember that one can and will cause a collective.
It is impossible to give more than I have, and completely possible to gain more than I dreamed when I pursue love-multiplied as my only agenda.”


The way I see it, we have two choices – LOVE and FEAR. Super simple! Now if you choose love, it does not mean that you have to agree, or even understand, but it does mean that you are giving others space to be who they are and to express how life is for them in a way that you can’t possibly understand. Again, you lose NOTHING. Who knows, you could even learn something and find out how ridiculous and unknowing you may have been before (which I strongly suspect is the reason so many of us refuse this opportunity)! Or you could realize how to be part of a solution, and/or how you might have been part of the problem.

Start today coming from your heart, and retrain your ears and mind to open up to those you have disregarded and discarded in the past based solely on things you can’t or refuse to relate to. Search your conscience for where you have turned it off in order to be okay with your discounting of others. Acknowledge the humanity in all, and the fact that we really all yearn for the same essentials. Listen to someone you might not have before, and not to gain anything for yourself, but just out of love. It’s a win-win. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, and you’ll start gaining faster if you listen more than you speak!



Love,
Debora

P.S.  Let me know if you’ve been brave enough to start giving people space to be who they are, and what you’re learning.

Being A Mama ;

My middle son graduates with his
B.S. in Geology in 2 weeks.

(Photographer: Jessica Verone)

There’s Always You

They Better Recognize!
There will be those for whom you will never be enough, and that’s okay!  It’s okay because they probably aren’t enough for themselves anyway.  They are already torturing themselves without even realizing it.  Resist participation in the “Not Enough” game.
There will be those that will say one thing to you when they’re happy with you, and turn around and say the exact opposite when they aren’t.  Resist the confusion by this confused person.  It’s a ploy to pull you into their snare.  Do not enter.  You don’t need them to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong about you.  If you listen to your heart, you already know the truth of the matter.
There will be those who will intentionally say or do things to hurt you.  Let’s be clear, this person is a bully.  It may indeed hurt, but that doesn’t mean they are right.  Let someone you trust know how you are being treated just as fast and as often as you can.  Don’t keep this perpetrator’s secrets about who they are, and stop buying into the secrets you are beginning to believe about yourself.  This is how they feed!  Don’t believe the negative ad campaign, and don’t feed the monsters.
There will be those that will fall short of their promises to you.  I’m not talking about false promises; I’m talking about promises made before they had any idea of what the follow-through would have to be.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” sometimes means that person can’t hold up to their lofty promises.  Frustrating, yes, but it means nothing – absolutely nothing – about you.
There will be those who will offer to loan you money, or do other favors for you in order to have some control in and over your life.  This is one way they keep you “loyal.”  Do not deal with this person, and do not be this person.  Favors should be from the heart with no expectation of the receiver.  (And, no, I’m not talking about the legalities of a money loan.  I am speaking about  your personhood.)
Predators are everywhere, and they aren’t just of the violent and/or sexual nature.  If someone purposes to bring you down, they are preying on you.  Recognize when someone is doing this to you, and don’t fall for it.  They are lonely down there and wish you harm for their own gain. 
There will be those that discount your feelings, your health, your struggles.  Believe in yourself and don’t let these issues define you. As well, don’t let what people refuse to understand define you either.  Break free from their thinking.
There will be those that are just simply unhappy, angry people. They will create things to blame on you, and they will incite your belief and bewilderment in their story.  If it sounds outlandish, it is!  You can NEVER be responsible for someone else’s happiness.  An unhappy person will be unhappy no matter where they go or whose company they keep.  Notice that unhappiness just follows these people.  You truly never will be enough of anything for these types.  If they can’t make themselves happy, they also cannot make YOU happy.  Also, do not depend on someone else for your own happiness.  You own this one for yourself, like it or not, as do they.
If you can’t physically distance yourself from these kinds of people, at least do not allow them to take up space for free in your thoughts, as your thoughts are at the forefront of your well-being.  Do not allow their insidious nature to take over.  You guard your heart and mind through your thoughts.  Someone may be able to take over physical space, but only you hold the key to your thoughts.  Don’t give it away, and keep these people out of your head.  This you do have 100% control over.
Now it’s up to you! (It always has been, actually.)
I say these things so matter-of-factly, I know.  It is work to be on guard and to be our own biggest advocate, but the payoff is freedom and power.  A very important piece of this is also recognizing the people in your life that are good for you, that love you just because they do.  These are the people that you want to surround yourself with.  These are the people that are worthy of your time, caring, and concern.  The more you surround yourself with these people, the less space there is for the others.  This is what being responsible for yourself looks like.  It’s up to you to be different.  If you’re waiting around for people around you to change, you’re on the wrong track.  Be responsible.  Nothing changes until your own thoughts and actions do.
Are you keeping that friend around who hurts your feelings or never shows up for you?  Why?  Are you keeping that potential suitor around just in case another better one doesn’t come along?  Why?  Are you still going to the family gatherings only to be treated like a stepchild?  Why?  In the pretend act of not hurting someone else’s feelings, what do you think you are doing to yourself?  Certain situations may be unavoidable at times, but that’s when I refer you back to guarding your thoughts!
We have this fairy tale that we aren’t responsible for how our lives turn out.  This tale allows us to ignore responsibility and refuse to take action, which oddly enough IS action and shows up all over our lives.  All you have to do is look at how your life is going, and I’m not talking about how you coordinate it to look on the outside.  I’m talking about your real life – how it looks from the inside.  We all know a horrible person whose life looks like it is unfairly working out so well for them.  (Someone just popped into your head, right?)  But trust me, were you able to be in their skin, it is not that at all.  So watch out for that envy!  The shiny things aren’t always what you think, and there is a price to be paid.

You are your best asset!
My Papa told me once to listen only to me in the end.  He said that people’s opinions were only worthwhile up until they start making you feel bad, vs. making you think.  As usual, he was right.  Of course. (Smile.)  I have come to understand this better as I get older and have become more practiced at it.  I was 13 when we had this talk, and dealing with some bullies at school.  I was feeling very unsure of myself, and he was very clear to me that the girls that were hating on me and bullying me were very unhappy people and wanted to make an example out of me and a few other friends.  He was very clear with me that I should not turn around and be that way to someone else in order to fit in or make myself feel better as they were doing to me.  He was also very honest and enlightened me to the fact that these people would always be around, and the best thing I could do was trust in myself.  He and my mother both taught me that being a happy person in spite of it was the best medicine.
There will be moments when you perceive that you are all you have.  You just have to remember that indeed you do!  




Divide and Conquer

Do you think you are separate?
An island unto yourself.
Do you listen to your monkey mind
Telling you that you are different,
That you are inferior, superior, that you don’t belong?
That you belong over there with them…
With your own kind?
There you are standing alone
Pretending to be stronger for it.
Sticking with your look-alikes, your sound-alikes, your do-alikes.
Are you now stronger
Remaining stagnant in your space
Pretending to do good while judging how “they” are?
A do-gooder for self
A do-gooder for same
Fooled, foolish, and foolishly gained.
You speak of changing the world,
Of how awful the world is.
You have travelled the world
Know your community inside and out
Yet remain stuck in your spot
Stuck in the same circle.
A circle with no end
That repeats itself with no break
A never-ending cycle that goes nowhere.
You can’t fly if you don’t spread your wings.
You can’t see newly if you don’t move.
Move over, move up, but move!
You are complaining about how “they” are.
Judging and insisting on change
While you stand with your ilk and remain paralyzed on the spot.
You don’t like the view “over there”
On the other side
Where “they” are.
Have you looked at you from over there?
Your own mire is so comfortable
You don’t see the division within it too.
You’re wide-eyed looking over there to claim to see
But really to examine all the failures and point
While you have your blinders on inside your circle.
Yeah, keep yourself separate, divided.
Keep telling yourself you are doing good
Making things better, a better life
For you and yours
While you divide and conquer….
                                                 Conquered and divided.

by Debora Lynn Garcia

Forgive and Forget

This subject was heavy on my mind this morning as I listened to Joel Osteen speak about how God forgives always, and how His forgiveness is always greater than any error one could ever commit.  I got to thinking about a couple of people I have chosen not to forgive and whose transgressions I refuse to forget.  What would it mean for me to forgive these people?  I am a forgiving person, and have long understood that “forgive and forget” does not translate into allowing harmful or toxic people to continue in my life.  So why have I chosen, knowingly, to hang onto the pains caused by these people?  They are not still doing anything to me, and this allows them to continue in my life in a toxic way.  This is my self-examination today.
From Dictionary.com
Word Origin & History
FORGIVE
O.E. forgiefan “give, grant, allow,” also “to give up” and “to give in marriage;” from for- “completely” + giefan “give” (see give). The modern sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” is from use of the compound as a Gmc. loan-translation of L. perdonare (cf. Du. vergeven, Ger. vergeben; see pardon).
From Merriam-Webster.com
Full Definition of FORGIVE
transitive verb
1          a :  to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
            b :  to grant relief from payment of
2          :  to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) :  pardon
From Dictionary.com
Word Origin & History
FORGET
O.E. forgytan, from for- “passing by, letting go” (cf. forbear, forgo) + gietan “to grasp” (see get). A common Gmc. construction (cf. O.S. fargetan, Du. vergeten, Ger. vergessen “to forget”). The literal sense would be “to lose (one’s) grip on,” but that is not recorded in any
Germanic language.
  
From Merriam-Webster.com
Full Definition of FORGET
transitive verb
1          a :  to lose the remembrance of :  be unable to think of or recall
            b obsolete :  to cease from doing
2          :  to treat with inattention or disregard
3          a :  to disregard intentionally :  overlook —usually used in the imperative
            b :  to give up hope for or expectation of —usually used in the imperative
intransitive verb
1          :  to cease remembering or noticing
2          :  to fail to become mindful at the proper time
So… to completely give a let-go!  This is why it is a gift to oneself.  
“Forgive and forget” is made a difficult practice by the confusion that it means to release another from his or her transgressions and allow them back – back in one’s life, back home, back in a group, etc.  This is faulty thinking and leads only to heartache and often bitterness of the one preoccupied and determined not to forgive.  That takes effort, but forgiveness actually takes far less effort!  Every action receives a reaction from the universe.  So consider if we forgive, we receive a certain path to take, and if we do not, we receive another.  Which would you have – one chosen for you, or one that you choose freely and with far less effort?
One can find many Bible verses about forgiveness.  Whether you claim a religion or not, they are all good advice, and worthy of much consideration and action.  However, I have yet to find a verse that says we should forgive AND forget.  I think forgetting, as in something being involuntarily or voluntarily wiped from one’s memory is impossible – at least in a force-it-out kind of way. 
As used in the context of forgive and forget, the forgetting is in letting go; it is a ceasing of purposely and purposefully recalling.  Let go of the attachment you have to the error.  Let go of the emotion you have attached to the error.  Most importantly, let go of how right you are about the error.  Whether you are right or not about the error, it is still the error.  Just let it gooooooo…   and let the universe swallow it up for you.  It is just as simple (or difficult, depending on one’s outlook) to practice letting go as it is to practice harboring the judgment and anger.  Yes, it is a practice.  We become better at that which we focus – positive or negative.  Much like forgiveness, there is another choice about direction here.  Which will you choose?
Forgiving and forgetting is not releasing the one (or ones) who hurt you.  To the contrary, it is about releasing yourself from the hurt.  The life path of the person who hurt you does not change whether you choose to forgive and forget, or not.  But yours DOES!  We choose our own paths, even when we are asleep at the wheel, and inaction is still an action. 
Wake up!  Pay attention!  Turn on your conscious GPS!  If you could draw out your choices over your lifetime as a map, how would those twists and turns look?  Where have they taken you, and what journey are you still on?  Are you progressing?  Do you feel good about your direction?  Are you going in circles only to end up in the same spot all the time?  Are you lost – wandering aimlessly?  Each choice takes a particular path.  Each choice rewards us with something.  We each created our own maps, life journeys, and painted ourselves into a particular picture.  Where are you headed?
(It is important to remember that transgressions, whether real or perceived, are always real to the one who owns the experience.)
  
References
Forget. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Forget
Forget. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forget
Forgive. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Forgive

Forgive. Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Retrieved January 19, 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forgive

Waging peace is how I learned from her.

I wrote this on January 12, 2013, after finding out about a dear friend transitioning (passing):  

An earth angel has left us behind to take her place in Heaven.  As is her usual way, she made one last check of things and flew off with her delicate little wings out the window to begin her new journey.

Feeling blessed and thankful today to have known and been touched by such a wonderful spirit.  I’ve tried to find them, but words do not exist to explain the kindness, gentleness, patience, and example of unconditional love she so quietly exhibited to all who paid attention.  She was living proof that strength and wisdom can come in the gentlest, quietest way.  I celebrate her life – quietly.

My heart goes out to the George family, and a little piece of it with “Mom.”  Prayers of condolence, healing, and the grace of light and peace….    

All I can say is, you had to have known her to fully “get” this.  I hadn’t seen her in about 10 years, and refused to say goodbye to her the last time I had a chance.  I wasn’t mad at her.  I adored her.  Circumstances at the time felt like I may not see her again, and I was too brokenhearted to face her.  Odd thing is, I know she never harbored judgement about it. I know this because I knew her.  Damn… I wish you would have known her.

Challenge!

Allow me to digress for a moment to catch you up:  My new game on this planet is “wage peace.”  Our pastor gave a fabulous Sunday lesson several months ago about focusing on war, fighting, and struggle.  It was about what we focus on will persist.  For some reason this really resonated with me that Sunday, and continues to whisper in my ear.  So I am on a mission to wage peace.  How this looks for me is that when something that comes up that feels hard, uncomfortable, a struggle, or defying reasonable explanation, I seek to find the lesson in it rather than resisting it or being angry.

With that explained, my friend transitioning was a perfect opportunity to go inward and see what I learned from her.  It was easy to figure out, though I was surprised at what a big deal it was.  Here’s what I learned:

I was lost in thought today about my friend that made her transition, and considering what I learned from knowing her, and recognizing what I wish I had learned sooner.

I like to garden – play in the dirt.  I was thinking today about self-propagating plants.  Those are the kind from which you can pull a piece off and start a completely new plant, i.e., jade plant, coleus, cactus, etc.

Here is what I learned.  Our hearts are like those plants.  When we give a piece away, it lives on; and who knows how many times that piece might be parted out again.  It is so worth it and keeps you alive.  Sometimes it might get broken, but it still lives on even outside of you because you shared it.

If you lock it up and never give it away, it withers and may shrink away or forget what it is like to be shared.  It cannot thrive that way.  So give pieces away freely and often.

Freely give pieces of your heart away.  The return is great.  Plant pieces of it wherever you go — even if you do not get to see what comes of it.  When you pluck a piece from your heart, new stems grow and your capacity becomes greater and more opportunities to give it away appear.  Much like a plant NEEDS to be trimmed and plucked for its vitality and further growth, so it goes with our hearts.

Giving your heart away is not the same as giving up your heart.  It is also not the same as “giving it up” or “putting out.”  You must love yourself FIRST so your heart can take root and grow strong to weather the storms that WILL come.  When you love yourself first, you can give pieces away and be stronger for having done so.  If not, you may give your heart up to someone or something – abandoning it, neglecting it, forsaking it.  It will uproot easily like that plant that has not been cared for properly.  Its roots are shallow and poor.  So love yourself first and grow a strong foundation and deep roots.

So plant away!  Peace out….