Self Inflicted Stress

The last couple of days, I’ve been dealing with family stress. It’s not my families fault. You may say I brought it on myself. Over the last three weeks we had two deaths in our family. My amazing Aunt Beulah passed away at the age of 93 and two weeks later her brother, my uncle Joel Jackson passed away at the age of 94. At first glance, you may be saying, wow they lived very long lives. However, the next point is that this means my grandmother Ms. Helen has no living siblings. But then if you dig in a a little deeper then you will say, well she is the baby of the family, so everything appears to be in it’s natural order. That’s how I can deal with it on paper. Reality seems to have beaten me up in a different way.

Joelbackright( Aunt Marie, Uncle Dool, Auntie (Ola Mae), Joel, and Ms. Helen (my grandmother)
(seated) Myrtle Gillard (not pictured Aunt Beulah)

I live in Seattle, Washington and my family lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although, I’ve lived in Seattle for seventeen years; instantly when I hear of a death or someone being sick in the family my first response is to try and go home. Sometimes it works out but most of the times it doesn’t. Despite not being there I always seem to try and find a way to be connected to what is happening. For my Aunt Beulah, I was able to write a piece about her that my niece read during her service. (That was dope.) For my Uncle Joel my sister asked me to send pictures of him that they could use for the bulletin/program. This is what stressed me out.

You see, I have a massive collection of family photos. I’m pretty proud of my collection. I knew I had this one particular picture of Joel but I wasn’t sure if I had to many more. But yet and still, I was happy to go through my collection. As I’m going through the collection, of course I’m finding pictures of everyone else. Therefore, I spend some of the time, taking pictures of the pictures to text to my family. To remind them of some of the moments from the past. About mid-way through my collection, I began to get nervous. I started to feel like I didn’t have any pictures of my uncle, but at the same time I knew there was at least one picture with his hands up. Because he didn’t want me to take his picture.

It happened, I went through the entire collection and all I had found was one group photo and nothing of Joel by himself. I became real sensitive to the situation. Why don’t I have any pictures of him? I know he didn’t like me taking pictures of him, but I still should have at least one? Am I missing some pictures? Let me think, did I move some pictures to another part of the house? What am I going to tell my family? I can’t believe I don’t have any pictures. The stress was building…

I decided to go to bed, and pick up the search the next day, when my mind was clear. I got home from work, cooked dinner, took a shower, ate dinner and began searching for pictures of him again. I remembered that I did have a folder of pics that I had pulled out for a documentary project. I found the folder went through it and I found a couple more group pics, but nothing of him by himself. I sat on my bed and had moments where I would cry just a little bit, because I was going to let down my family. How could I not have any pictures? I’m a failure.

More importantly, where was the one picture that I knew I had? Why can’t I find it? I sat there for a while and then I decided to go and check in another room. In a matter of minutes I found the picture with his hands up. I questioned why I had moved the pic but now it was like a precious piece of gold. I held it to my chest. I instantly felt the weight lifted from my heart.

Joel handsup

I don’t even think my family would be able to use it for the service, but that didn’t even matter anymore. I have a picture of my uncle Joel and that’s all I care about.

No more stress…RIP JOEL

Me and Joel
Me and Joel (2014 I think)
Self Inflicted Stress

Sunny vs Cloudy Days


The sun is shining. We are finally starting to get a taste of summer. Around these parts we really appreciate what the summer brings. It not only highlights the beauty of the Pacific Northwest but it also lightens our spirits. Some of us are use to the cloudy somewhat rainy winters, but when that sun starts to show itself regularly we instantly light up. I have this thing I say, when the sun comes out it seems like people will just sit anywhere to get a taste of it. On the sidewalks and in any little patch of grass they can find, because they know we have to take it all in while we can. We really and truly appreciate its presence over here.

I’m starting to fill that way about violence in our communities and throughout America. The only difference is the winters are year round and there are only short flashes of summer. We’re going through these constant moments where this person is gunned down, beaten up, or violated in some inhumane way and those people over there are killed in a massive shooting or even bombed. Then when we get that brief moment where nothing has happened and we begin to very slowly and cautiously come out of the grief. BOOM!!!

It’s happened again.

On Monday, the young lady that works with me. Came into the office and I could tell that she wasn’t herself. Hell I wasn’t myself. We spoke a little while about the murder of Charleena Lyles, but then like always we tried to focus on the work. We went through our workday like normal tackling our workload. It seemed pretty much like a typical day in the office, once we got in our grove.

When the time came for me to leave for the day. I stood up and she said, “Sharon, I just have one more question before you go.” I looked down into her eyes and they were a little glossy, so I made sure I gave her my undivided attention. Then she said in her most sincere voice, “What do we do?”

As her boss she is somewhat use to me having the answer. Hell I’m use to me having some kind of answer. I slowly reached for my chair and sat back down, looked her in her eyes and said, “Suryanka, I don’t know”.


I don’t know when the sun will continue to shine and if the cloudy winters will ever stop again. I just don’t know.

Sunny vs Cloudy Days

Setting My Mind Free: The Prayer

airplane wing

I can’t make this stuff up.

Today is Tuesday, May 23rd and I’m on a plane headed to Denver for a three day meeting for the National Performance Network’s LANE (Leveraging A Network of Equity) program. It’s been a rocky morning. I left home a little late, morning traffic was a little thick so that mixed with my lateness, I was about 10 minutes late to the Park N Fly. Arrived at the airport, then one of there employees tells me to go to a different checkpoint (#3) and I knew that was taken me further away from my gate, but I went with the flow. Arrived at where my favorite bagel shop should have been but is no longer. It’s being replaced with some entertainment business. Settled for the restaurant near where I was, only to have servers ignore me for about 10 minutes. After getting my food 20 minutes after I ordered it. I made my way down to the gate listed on my boarding pass only to realize they changed the gate and instead of 4 it was 1. Board the plane and tell a man he’s in my seat and when he gives me this look of confidence. I look at my boarding pass and realized I was wrong. Then for no reason at all I struggled to get my headphones, my pillow, my iPad out of my bag and to put my seatbelt on.

Breath…deep breaths…wuuuu saaaa…

Once settled, my bagel turned out to be good, they included a fruit cup, so that made me feel a little better about it costing me $12. Finished eating and decided I would work on writing part two (now part three) of the Setting My Mind Free blog. To reveal what it was that appeared in my head as I was sitting on the back deck watching the ferry, listening to the music of the waves, and feeling the radiant heat on my face.

Now I’m on this plane in a window seat, the sun is heating the side of my face. As we ease into the sky, I’m captivated by the beauty. I open my iPad and go to the notes app. Once in notes I decided to checkout some of the writings I had stored on there. Just to be reminded of what I had wrote and see if by chance any of the writings would spark something new for me to write. The first piece I came across was the notes for the podcast I recorded on Sunday. (Still working on creating a podcast so it’s not ready for the public yet but will be soon.) After reading part ways through I then navigated to the Notes on iPad section of the app. And believe you me I couldn’t believe I came across this piece I wrote on August 31, 2016.

Amen Amen Amen Amen

I’m starting my prayer at the end
Because that’s where my story begins
I’ve taken the steps in DC to approach you
As my feet hit the pavement
My fingers found your name
I was instantly drained

I made it this far
With you being the angel in my heart
As I have moved through time
Wondering, why mine

You were called
And you went
From protect and serve to
I promise to defend the constitution
To six feet deep with a cemented sign and grass covering
Your head to your feet

As my tears roll
I need a minute to vent
I need to get this off of my chest
Because I can’t let it rest



I’m trapped in this world
Knowing you were here
You left before I appeared
I’m constantly longing for you to be near

Father God,
I come to you today
Asking you to give me strength as a pray
Let me forever feel his presence
Tell him I love him and I wish he were here

Dear Lord, I pray for the cousin they took away

Sitting on the deck on Whidbey Island, I thought I wasn’t searching for anything. I thought I just wanted to step away from the chaos of life and just be still. However, my mind on the deck and on the plane told me and showed me that it was time to share my connection to Brother with the world in an honest and loving way.

Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to set your mind free.


Setting My Mind Free: The Prayer

Setting My Mind Free: Brother Brother

Setting My Mind Free: Brother Brother

I lied.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to not tell the truth but my mind has a mind of it’s own. I promise I didn’t lie on purpose.

If you had a chance to read my blog Setting My Mind Free, I said, my next post would be a continuum of that piece. Therefore, it was 1 of 2 pieces. Well after careful consideration, I want to let you know that Setting My Mind Free is 3 parts
instead of 2.

What had happened was???

I wrote the second piece and I was ready to publish it, but in reading it I thought that I needed to provide you with more of the supporting details of what was on my mind that day on Whidbey Island. Therefore, you are actually reading the third installment before you can read the second installment. Please bear with me and I ask that you trust me on this journey of Setting My Mind Free.


Allow me to take you back a little bit, imagine that I’m back on Whidbey Island, the sun is making the water glisten and I’m sitting on the deck enjoying the summer time feel of the moment. As I begin to drift into my stillness, while allowing my breath and the sound of the waves that are surrounding me work it’s magic in helping my psyche become clear and open to whatever the universe prefers. I’m sitting on the top step of the deck looking forward and I slightly turn my head to the right and stare at the tide as it calmly pushes the water onto the sand. FREEZE…BE STILL…BREATHE….

There he is just above the water, Brother and I say aloud, “Hey Brother, wow what’s this about you haven’t shown up in my head and heart in a while”. Brother isn’t my brother but he’s my cousin, whom we call Brother. His given name is Joseph Earl Jackson. I don’t know how he got the nickname Brother. But in my family we also have Teacher, Daddy Sandy, Dool, Bird, etc. just to name a few.

Growing up from time to time someone would mention Brother at a family gathering but it would be quick. Never long enough for me to learn exactly who he was but enough to make me curious about what kind cousin he would be. You see, Brother died on September 10, 1970 during the Vietnam War. He was only 21 years old and had only been in the army for three months. He died five years before I was born, so I never had a chance to meet him. But as I say in my piece Truth Is, “Truth is…There are love ones that I would never get to know. Truth is…I love the lost love ones. Truth is…I think of them often.”

Jackson, Joseph Earl_Brother pic
PFC Joseph Earl Jackson aka Brother (pulled this pic from Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall of Faces)

Around 2012, I started thinking about Brother a lot. It felt like I thought of him every day. I would ask random people in my family to tell me about him. The most I got out of anyone was my father, “He loved cars and he had the baddest car in Parkton, North Carolina. Yes, sir he was proud of his car”. There it is, there’s our connection my dream car is a 1966 Ford Mustang, actually any Ford Mustang at this point would get me really excited. If he was still here I would probably have my dream car by now and we would have this crazy relationship built around our unique love for Ford Mustangs.

When I think of Brother, I cry a little and I begin to miss him a lot. I know every time it happens it makes me feel weird because I never met him so how can I miss him so much. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I long for Brother and lord knows I’ve tried to figure out the why, plenty of times. I finally decided that it’s an emotional reaction that I won’t ever be able to explain. I’m trying to teach myself to stop asking why and be grateful that there are times when I know he is with me.

I recognize that times like this when I set my mind free and I allow it to go in the direction that it so chooses. I have to trust the journey and recognize that in this moment this is exactly what I’m suppose to be thinking about. My mind wanted me to remember my hero, BROTHER. I don’t need to question or dignify that to anyone or myself. I love my cousin and I’m reminded that time and time again in these moments. I may not know much about him, but I know he lives in me.

Thank you to all the soldiers and military families. I salute you for your service.

(Truthfully, I didn’t realize that Memorial Day was about to happen, when this happened.)

I will release the final part to Setting My Mind Free later this week.





Setting My Mind Free: Brother Brother

Setting My Mind Free

2016 View from the deck on Whidbey Island

Don’t get it twisted I am not a morning person. It’s five minutes to 8 o’clock on Sunday morning. I woke up to the sun beaming on my face. I’m now sitting on the back deck of a house on Whidbey Island, Washington courtesy of a Hedgebrook supporter. The back of this house opens up to the beach. The sun is shining (THANK THE LORD) and my surround sound is the music being played by the waves of the water as it reaches the sand.

My initial thought is, damn this is beautiful. I’ve seen it before because I stayed here last year, but nature is picture perfect no matter how many times you see it. I take a moment and began wondering, am I ever going to be able to afford a house with a view like this. How did I get so lucky to be able to experience the beauty of the sun glistening off the water, the seamless waves meeting the sand repeatedly, the calming sound of the waves, and the quietness of the morning?

The purpose of coming out on the deck was to be present and enjoy the beauty of the moment. The other reason was to free my mind and be open to whatever thoughts would come to me organically. I had no plans or ideals in which the thoughts would enter into my head. Therefore, I just sat there filling the heat from the sun and the cool breeze from the wind waiting for something to challenge the quiet space I’d welcomed.

2016 Whidbey Island Ferry

I’m watching the ferry pull into the docking area and my mind surprises me in what it wants me to think about. In my head I started retracing the steps in hopes of figuring out or at least coming up with an explanation of why out of the blue am I thinking about this. My mental investigation leads me back to one of the plays we read yesterday.

I’m here on Whidbey Island because it is the home of Hedgebrook an organization whom’s focus is women writers. It is an oasis on a beautiful wooded property, that has cabins, a garden, and a peaceful niceness that allows writers the opportunity to allow there thoughts to form with out the sound or the back ground noise of their everyday lives.

During this visit, I’m part of a group that is here to welcome five women playwrights who haven been commissioned or is currently working with a theatre in creating a new play. We spend the day reading excerpts of the writers work followed by a constructive observations/thoughts geared toward providing some information that we hope will be helpful to them during their two week stay at Hedgebrook.

2017 Opening of Hedgebrook’s Women Playwrights Festival

Yesterday we were reading an excerpt from a play by Amy Freed. I had the pleasure to read the character, James who was a war veteran. I’m certain that being that character sparked my thoughts this morning as I relish in the sun and the view. Which I first thought was totally random, but now as the ferry has begun to make it’s return trip. I realize the thoughts weren’t totally random. As the sun continues to warm my face an the cool air from off the water softens the heat. I take a deep breath and allow my mind to continue to wonder in the path it has chosen. I haven’t talked about it much in the past couple of years but back in 2013 it was something that heavily weighted  on my mind and my heart. I guess this moment in time is as good as any to revisit this story.

I’m sorry, time refused to stay still, I have to leave the deck now and gather my things to return to Hedgebrook for our second day of readings. I will reveal what was going on in my head in my next blog.

Setting My Mind Free

Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness

Sharon Mexico
This is me on an immersion trip in Mexico where I learned more about the country’s history and struggle with poverty. My Humanity album features stories from this trip. 

Here’s my current situation. My brother has been living with me for going on three years and last year his son came to live with us. For about the last month my brother has been working in Richmond, Virginia; which means I’m on full time auntie duty.

This past weekend my charge was to take my nephew to the mall before it actually opened so he could get in line to purchase the new Jordan’s. To be exact they were the white and silver Jordan Retro 4 sneakers. Let the record show that I have never bought a pair of Jordan’s and there I was early on Saturday morning, sitting at a table in the mall, surfing the internet on my phone, watching the mall walkers go by, and waiting on my nephew to get his new sneakers.

I’ve heard about the process, I know I have family members; my brother, nieces and nephews whom have also made sure they got there place in line. If you want the new you have to be dedicated to this process because the store will only get a certain number of pairs and once they are gone they aren’t able to replenish there stock. Some of you may no this as supply and demand, but to me it’s just a hustle that Nike/Jordan and now several other companies have perfected.

While I was sitting there waiting for my nephew when a Black man comes over to my table and asks if he could sit with me. I saw that he had some food, therefore my response was, “Of course if you are going to share your food”. He laughed and said, “I don’t mind sharing”. He looked to probably be a little older than me and he had on his working clothes. Honestly I didn’t notice his clothes until I walked past him a little while later when we were leaving the mall.

During our conversation I learned that he was from North Carolina. The accent and a reference he made about Hardees gave that away instantly. I can’t remember the small town he was from but both of us being from North Carolina made the fact that we ended up at this moment in time together feel familiar. Yes, we did have to ask each other, “Who your people?”

The longer we talked the more comfortable we became with each other. I finally asked, “Why was he in the mall on a Saturday morning eating chicken?” I figured it was just something he liked to do. But he looked at me and said, “Honestly, I lost the place I was staying and I just moved into the shelter.” I instantly went into I’m so sorry mode, but he reassured me that he was going to be okay. That being in the shelter was only temporary. He believed in a couple of months he would be back on his feet.

You see his trade is painting. He’s been painting houses since he was 18 and he felt that he just needed a few big houses and some steady gigs to get back on his feet. I believed him, but I couldn’t help but feel some kind of way. Here I am in the mall with my nephew who is about to get a pair of shoes that cost around $200 (I didn’t pay for them.) and this man is living in a shelter.

For five years I worked with Neal Lampi and Jenn Romo of Real Change Newspaper on the Annual Urban Poverty Forum here in Seattle. Where we addressed certain issues around homelessness. A few years ago I released my first poetry plus storytelling album, Humanity in which the focal point was homelessness. Everyday when I’m driving around town I see the tents, the sleeping bags, the person on the side of the street with the sign asking for money/work and I may even see someone pushing a shopping cart. But no matter how many times I’ve seen it, or have written about it, it doesn’t and will never prepare me for when it looks me dead in the eye.

I woke up thinking I was just going to be taking my nephew to get a new pair of shoes. I never thought along with that would come a reminder of how lopsided our society really is.

Homelessness is real…

Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness