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(l.to.r) 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

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

WHY DID THEY TAKE YOU FROM ME
NEVER CAN I LOOK INTO YOUR EYES
HEAR YOUR LAUGH
OR FEEL YOUR HEART BEAT NEXT TO MINE
I DON’T KNOW YOUR VOICE
OR IF YOUR SKIN IS SOFT OR ROUGH
ARE YOUR TEETH BRIGHT WHITE
OR DO THEY HAVE A HINT OF YELLOW
ARE YOUR FEET PRETTY
OR ARE YOUR DOGS CRUSTY
DO YOU WALK WITH SWAG
OR ARE YOU JUST A SHY GUY
WHAT DO YOU SMELL LIKE AFTER YOU WORK ON YOUR CAR
WHAT DO YOU SMELL LIKE WHEN YOU GO ON A DATE
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FOOD, COLOR, TIME OF YEAR
WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE
WHAT MAKES YOU SAD
WHAT WILL MAKE YOU KICK SOMEBODIES ASS

BROTHER WHY DON’T I KNOW THE TRUE YOU

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.

IMG_5125

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