A Good Home, Canadian life, Canadians, Family, Inclusion, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life in canada, OpEd

Below the Waterline

Can you imagine smiling politely as someone insults you and the people you love most in the world?

I recently met a man who came to our home to repair an appliance. His work completed, we got to talking about ethnic food. He asked me: “What do you think my background is?”

I stared at him, his European ancestry evident in his face, skin colour, hair texture. But he wouldn’t have asked that question unless he had been born somewhere outside Europe, I reasoned.

“Maltese,” I said, picking the first place that came into my mind.

“No,” he replied.

I was still staring at his face.

“I give up,” I finally said.

“I’m Canadian Indian,” he said.

“Seriously?” I asked.  I know that indigenous people come in a variety of shapes and shades, but still….

“You must be mixed with a lot of European blood, then?”

“No, only a little,” he said. “My grandfather on my father’s side was half German.  I look  a lot like him. But all my brothers and siblings look completely indigenous, with darker skin and black hair.”

I smiled knowingly now. “My extended family is kinda like that,” I said. “Our family’s racial mix seems to disappear for a generation or two, then it pops up and a child will resemble an ancestor two or three generations back. Funny how that happens, eh?”

Blog Photo - Hollyhock Mutant

We chatted for a while longer. But after he left, one thing he said stayed on my mind. Because everyone he meets assumes he’s caucasian,  he sometimes hears people talk about indigenous people in disparaging terms.

“That’s my people they’re talking about,” he remarked, sad and matter-of-fact at the same time. “That’s me they’re talking about in that way.”

~~

Our conversation reminded me that when we meet someone, we never quite know who we’re talking to. Below the waterline, beneath the obvious, lie differences that we can’t see.

If you met some members of my own family, you wouldn’t know their racial mix either.

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden CU of CR

And if you met me, you wouldn’t immediately realize that as a consequence of my car accident, I struggle with a head injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the depression that accompanies those challenges.  Yes, mental disability.

I have Muslim friends who are rarely recognized as such because Muslims are seen as brown-skinned, and primarily from the Middle East or India/Pakistan.  I have Jewish friends who don’t fit someone else’s idea of what a Jew should look or behave like.

I have deeply religious friends who have heard others disparage their belief in God, and atheist friends who are disdained for not believing in God.

And until quite recently in Canada, it was often acceptable to talk about gays, lesbians and transgender persons in very negative terms. In some quarters, it still is.

These are just a few of the many invisible differences that exist among the people we know. Differences that are sometimes disparaged, even rejected.

~~

The talk with the appliance repairman left me thinking about the potent mix of emotions a person feels when they are accepted as “one of us”, knowing that if their true identity were known, they’d likely be rejected, as would the people they love.

What must it feel like to be allowed ‘a pass’ because of the way you look, but to hear people, over and over, deride a group to which you belong?

My visitor described his experiences without self-pity, without anger.

I didn’t ask him: are you glad at times that you don’t look Aboriginal? Doesn’t it gain you entry to places where your real identity would deny you access? But perhaps I didn’t ask because I already have a sense of such things — my own background being what it is.

And not for the first time, I wondered: is this the kind of adversity that is supposed to make a person stronger? Or does its effect simmer quietly out of sight, corroding one’s soul?

 

 

Advertisements
A Good Home, Caregiving, Health, Life Challenges, Love, Relationships

Flowers for Those Who Care

Blog Photo - Flowers for Sister Yellow Lily

Blessed are the Caregivers

Who love and tend us in rough times.

Pay attention to the Caregivers

They give much to others, but who takes care of them?

**

Blog Photo - flowers for Sister Yellows 1

Blessed are the Cared

Tended and loved by the Caregivers.

We would be lost without them

And their great faith that we will heal.

**

Blog Photo - Hollyhock Mutant

Comes a day, unexpected,

When the Caregiver becomes the Cared

And the Cared becomes Caregiver

Two grateful souls reflected in each other.

Blog Photo - flowers in glass vase mixed

**

Dedicated to our friends David and Sandra, and to Natalie Scarberry, whose inspirational blog tends her readers’ spirits. You’re all in my prayers. 

A Good Home, Book Interviews, Book lovers, Book Reviews, Christmas Decorations, Good wishes, Gratitude, Kindness, Laughter, Life Challenges

Incredible You

Readers of this blog and A Good Home have encouraged my family and me through some crazy times this year. 

Blog photo - Winter arrsangement cu 3

You’ve consoled and encouraged me in the domestic arts, including the two times I tried making outdoor Christmas arrangements!  Several readers offered compliments, tips, commiseration, inspiration.

And Arna sent me this photo. 

Blog Photo - Reader Arna's Planter

“I told you I have a planter like yours!” she said.

Yes, Arna, but yours is far more assured. 

**

From last fall to this spring, I had to abandon virtually all my book-related activities and take to my bed.

Some of you decided to help.  You bought my book, and wrote wonderful reviews.

Phil reviewed A Good Home for an American book website last year, then created computer-assisted images promoting the book. 

Book - Philip Young's photo

Blog Photo - Reader Philip's Owl Photo

John G. took my book with him on his annual canoe trip, then wrote a review too.

Book - with bagel and gloves in Johns canoe

**

In Avery, Texas, 90 year old Lou Mathis and his wife Aggie were themselves struggling this September.  Their farm business was suffering because of its name, “Isis”.  (Isis was the ancient Egyptian goddess, but in today’s climate, not a popular name.)

Lou asked on their blog: “WHAT DO YOU THINK? For some reason I refuse to give up the… ISIS FARMS. But would painting the sign OVER IN GREEN……”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I asked you to reply to Lou and Aggie and many of you did.  Wonderful, caring replies that helped them make their decision. It’s now  called “Aggie’s Farm”.

Photo by Aggie's Farm
Photos by Aggie’s Farm

**

In October, Canada’s national radio network, CBC,  aired my interview with celebrated host Shelagh Rogers.

Blog Photo - Shelagh Rogers and The Next chapter

I’d been nervous about it. But people like John V. wrote to my blog afterwards:

“I heard you speak on the radio about healing and it gave me perspective and hope for my own circumstances. Sincere thanks for sharing.”

Such validation for a book completed in dire times!

**

On crazily painful days, I often forced myself to write poems, making fun of myself and my home life.  Some (like Stiletto Heels) became blog posts, which made you laugh, uplifting me in return.

Image via shopflyjane.com
Image via shopflyjane.com

Andra wrote: “I absolutely howled with laughter reading this. Thanks, Cynthia! Have had similar thoughts watching the young ladies strutting about in high heels and skimpy dresses in inclement weather. And like you, I recall being just as foolish back in the day. Great poem.”

**

Then, without warning this fall, life changed perilously. My husband nearly died.

Titled No Words, my poem expressed the raw agony our family experienced.

In reply, you warmly supported us with prayers, consolation and good wishes.

Incredible kindness, especially because I’ve never met most of you in person.

**

“Thank you” hardly seems enough. But thank you, anyway.

For your kindness.

And for being part of my world.

My best,

Cynthia.

A Good Home, Faith, Family, Family Moments, FEar, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Love, Words

NO WORDS

There are no words.

*

One speaks to God in frightened silence

Broken only by jagged breath.

One reaches for faith

And reaches again.

*

Before faith,  the lurch in the belly.

The gasp from the chest.

The hurt in the heart.

And sighs too deep for words.

*

Shock. Denial.  Floundering.

The waves of fear, threatening to drown.

We must not drown.

We search for a fixed point.

*

The heart glimpses the rock

Rising up from the water.

The rock shines with promise.

Strong, fixed and charcoal-dark.

*

The deep water swirls and obscures

So confident in its massive power.

It carries threats of death and echoes of loss.

And loud whispers of nevermore.

*

Quick now: shut it out.

Do not give it the power it craves.

Focus instead on the fixed point.

Look again and find the rock.

*

There are no words.

I speak to God in silence and jagged breath.

My arms thrash, thrash and thrash

And touch solid stone.

*

I hold on, hold on

Fight to hold on to its solid-ness

The waves of fear, and drowning waters

Are all around.

*

One thrashes and fights

And struggles with all one’s might.

And speaks to God, in silence and jagged breath:

Let my beloved live.

*

Let him live.

Let us get to the hospital in time.

Let the doctors and nurses know what to do.

Please let my beloved live.

**