Speeching Off!

 

My Fellow Americans:

It has certainly been a while since I have spoken with you all in a forum such as this; and I thank you for the opportunity to again stand before you, as your humble servant and friend. This past year has been a tough one for us all on so many levels. We have had personal and economic losses, we have been ridiculed locally and internationally and we have seen too much death. Terrorism, despite our best efforts, has continued to plague our shores, as it has those of our allies. We have had to endure the unmasking of a demoralizing and damaging sexual epidemic that strikes at our hearts even as it attacks the heart of one of our industrial mainstays. Those we had held in some esteem have let us down in ways we could not have imagined and from which we will struggle to recover. And, those we expect to uphold the highest examples of morality, integrity and decorum in public office, and in whom we place the well-being of our citizens and our country, have failed us in ways too numerous to mention. So yes, this past year has indeed been a tough one for us all. Therefore, I stand before you today.

I am here to remind you of who you are. Who we are. To reinforce in all of us despite what we are being told, shown and victimized with, the strength of a people that endure. We endure not in spite of; but because of. We endure because we are imbued with an indomitable will that is built to withstand blows, knocks, disasters – both natural and manmade – ridicule and incompetence. We endure because we are from a people who have endured and died to give us life. We endure because we rest our strength not on the will of man; but on the unshakeable will of God.

In the past year, while you have been wondering just what twist of fate has brought us to this place, I ensure you those of us you have trusted and supported in the past, those of us you have let into your homes, your families, your work and social places… those of us you have let into your lives, have been doing what we can to mitigate the damage others seem destined to inflict upon us all. I ask that you continue to trust us. That you continue to be patient in the face of seeming hopelessness. I ask that you continue to respect and believe in our constitution and know that it will work. Remember how long it took for us, the brave, strong, worthy and deserving black citizens of this great nation to get exactly what was due and owing to us… and be patient. Remember that just ten short years ago millions in this country and around the globe ridiculed and doubted a black man would ever occupy that great white house… and be patient.

I have never lied to you and will not start now when we are being constantly barraged with lies. So, I will admit that at times it is difficult for me to remain optimistic. There are days when our children look to us for answers, with the same looks of dismay I imagine yours do, and we fumble for the answers to explain. There are nights when I cry, because I give in to despair at just how badly things have gotten. Then I pray. Because I remember that even as man will fail me, my God never will. Despite what it looks like. Despite all who use His name in vain. So yes, there are nights I worry. But miraculously, daylight comes and renews my strength and my faith; in myself, my family, my nation and in you. I wake with a renewed purpose to continue doing what I can do; and I ask you for the same. Keep on doing what you do. What you can do. Keep on putting one foot in front of the other and I promise you, I will match you, step for step. And, if you stumble, I promise you I will be there to catch you, or cushion your fall.

Maya Angelou said, “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated…” I ask you to hold on to those words. Keep them wrapped in those secret places you look to when times get so tough you think you may break, but don’t. Tuck them away for safe-keeping and only bring them out when needed. Let them remind you that others have and do feel what you do. Find comfort in the strength in numbers.

Yes, this past year has been a tough one for us all; but we are a tough people. So today I stand before you, but in absolute solidarity with you, to remind you, my fellow American mothers, wives, sisters, survivors, aunts, caretakers, husbands, partners, educators, seniors, tweens, teens, LBGTQ community, military, young ladies and men and the immigrants on whose hard work and personal sacrifice we all depend and benefit, we got this!

May God continue to bless America and us all.

Michelle Obama.

________________________________

I submitted a final paper (13 pages) for one of my English classes. My thesis? I decided to explore the success of, when one writes, whether he is able to completely divorce himself from the text; or, whether ultimately we all leave fingerprints along the way. My other thesis question focused on the success of ghostwriters; whether one is truly able to write in the voice of another and be successful/convincing.

I submitted the above letter in my paper as my attempt to speak as another. Was I successful?

PS. Have I ever told yall my desire to be a professional speech-writer some day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Birthday Exposed My Birthmark And My Birthright.

Sometimes things happen subconsciously. Like avoidance. I realized this morning that I, unbeknownst to me, had been avoiding posting… because my friend is not here to read and comment. Then I remembered… you all are. I did not realize I was suspending my voice; but now that I do, let me correct that.

How are you all? What has been happening? Is everyone in your world behaving? Most probably not, as the holidays are upon us and absolutely nothing brings out the worst in people/families like weddings, funerals and yes, the damn holidays! Sigh. There certainly is something to be said for the angst that settles upon us sometimes simply at the thought of those who bear our DNA all gathered in one spot. Lord have every mercy! Good luck, yall!

But guess what? This will brighten the mood I just plunged you in with that little reminder of what’s to come… it was my birthday on Saturday! Yep; I was able to tick off yet another year on this magical journey and look excitedly at the onset of another. This new year of mine holds so much to look forward to; I can scarcely catch my breath!

So, what did I do to mark the occasion, you ask? Well, this year for reasons unknown to me, I decided I wanted to head to D.C. So, that is precisely what we did. Then I decided that since I was there, it would be spectacular to start the day of my birth paying homage to my ancestors. It would be fitting for me to thank them for life. My life. So, we headed to the National Museum of African American History. And, because God and I have called a truce since my latest crisis in faith, he arranged it so that on that morning, at 6:32am, I was fortunate enough to go online to their site and get four free passes for that day. And, to lead me to the right security guard at the entrance who overlooked the fact that there were five of us… with only four passes.

My mind is still compromised! Being in that space, surrounded by and faced with what had been done to my great great great great great great great great great great grand-mothers, grand-fathers, grand-everythings, touched and is touching me in places and spaces that had, until that moment, remained private. They are no longer so. Emotions, questions, confusion, bewilderment and sadness have been pushed to the surface of my soul and is leaving me changed. I am even more flabbergasted at the atrocities we are capable of inflicting on each other… in the name of, what exactly?! Whew! I was and am humbled by the words that convey sentiments of people I have never met, but know all too well. The words and emotions of what they experienced, then  shared, just so that I would not have to. My God!

You know, my intention was to tell you of all of my celebration, but I will stop here. Rest assured it was spectacular and I thank all who contributed with their presence, presents, calls, texts, postings, singing and cards; all amazing expressions of love. Thank you. But I will stop here so that the greatest gift I have ever gotten will have its moment to resonate. The gift of life; given to me by my ancestors. The gift of freedom; gifted to me by my ancestors. If you have not yet gone to see that commemoration of history, go. You should. You must. You owe it to yourself and to our world, moving forward. Black or white. Shit! Black and white! The former to understand where we came from and what our ancestors sacrificed for us. The latter to see where we came from and what our ancestors scarified for us… because of yours.

Here are the details on how to experience it:

On the first Wednesday of every month the museum makes available free timed passes online (these tickets cannot be purchased). When I went on the first Wednesday in November, there were only passes available for February 2018 and beyond (yes; it is that popular!). However, every day starting at 6:30am, you  are able to go online and try to secure same day timed passes, if there is any surplus. The maximum allowed any one person is four; so if going to be more of you going, I recommend more than one of you tries at the same time (although three of us tried for last Saturday and I was the only one successful!). On weekdays, you are also able to walk up to the museum and potentially get passes for immediate entry. Here is the site: https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes Go. Trust me. It disturbs your soul. But, our souls should be disturbed.

Let me know what you feel.

I Used To Be Fearless. Now I Am Faring Less.

In case you all are wondering, yes, I am still reeling from shock and grief. The ‘good’ news however, is that I have been able to find out what ‘happened’ to my friend. And, thank God, it seems she passed peacefully in her sleep. This is ‘good’ because I had been terrified Gloria had had to confront the reality of her imminent mortality; that it was literally something that stared her in the face and there was a moment or ten that she needed to reconcile with. You see the thing is we all know we are going to die; it is the one thing we can count on. But, regardless of how we feel about death and dying, having to confront it in real-time is a whole other matter. And, knowing some of what Gloria had already had to face in her short lifetime, I did not want her to have been scared. So, I am thanking God for this very small mercy.

Now, I am facing another problem, or maybe even a crisis, of my own. I am scared. Okay, terrified. Since the untimely passing of my friend, I have been confronting the parallels in our lives – social, academic and geographical – and realizing that she could have been me. The fear is almost paralyzing. Every ache means something. I am afraid to go to sleep; opting instead to try and keep watch over myself. Over my life. I am afraid for the plans I have in the future… what if I do not live to achieve or experience them? I am scared of losing those I love. Afraid to let them out of my sight. You see, that night Gloria died, I know she went about it the same as she always had, expecting to pick right back up in the morning. Except for her, morning never came. That could be me. You.

Today I said the words out loud, “I will need help with this.” I had planned on speaking with a therapist regarding my grief; but now I realize I also need to speak about my fear. Because, it is real and it is big. I am terrified of my life getting interrupted; and not some distant arbitrary time in the far-off future, but today. Tonight. Like hers did.

I am in tears again. For her. For me. You. For all that we could miss out on. I have plans. My daughter has them too. I want to see hers actualize. Shit! I have grandbabies to meet. Degrees to achieve. Love yet to give and receive. A life. My life.

Listen. Death came too close to me and I am not equipped to deal with all it means. I will get help for what I am feeling, because I know the worst thing I can do is to let my fears paralyze me to the point where I voluntarily stop living, loving, laughing, dreaming, hoping, planning, dancing, feeling, praying. So, I will seek the help I need to learn how to process this in the healthiest way possible. To learn how to smile again… and let it be true. I promised you all the truth of and from me, so this is it – my heart aches and I am now terrified to live because I could die.

Listen to me please. There are things in life that touch us and leave us. And then there are those that stay with us and alter our lives. Please, check in with yourselves often. See how you are doing. And, if you are not good or struggling, acknowledge it, then do something about it. Please. Take care of you. Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses. Fuck that old commercial…absolutely let them see you sweat; I promise you it is okay. Ask for what you need; and keep asking until you get it. You deserve it.

I need help with this. And, I will get it. Because until I am stopped, my life is mine and God help me, there is a lot to enjoy.

To be continued…

Love.

 

 

 

This Way, We Both Finish And We Both Graduate. Please.

Since the devastating news, I had been, between tears and grieving, trying to find a way to come to terms with this reality. I have been thinking and thinking and thinking. This came to me in the middle of the first night of learning what had happened. I had been sitting with it since then… Okay, I had been concentrating on putting that one foot in front of the other and doing my best to hold all my bits and pieces together. But last night, in part because it was Gloria’s birthday, I emailed this letter to the Dean of Student Affairs. Below it, is her response. Below that are my thoughts. Below that,  feel free to let me know yours.

_________________________

Dear Dean Ayravainen,

My name is Diane C. Wiltshire and I am a lower senior at Hunter College. I am writing to ask for your assistance with a reality that is as close to my heart as it has broken my heart.

Three years ago, in a Philosophy class I met another student; her name is Gloria. In large part because we were contemporaries, we gravitated towards each other. From there, a friendship, a sisterhood was formed that has allowed for us to navigate our academic journeys even stronger in our two-some. Because we were older students, with lives and especially histories that at once propelled us forward as at times threatened to pull us back, we signed up to be the cheerleader each of us needed to keep on going. With the knowledge of past abuses and struggles, we vowed to use our pasts to make us better; never bitter.

It was not always easy. In fact, often it was downright difficult. There were those moments we cried, yelled, thought of giving up, secretly gave up, but always, always, always, reached out to the other and got right back on the track. We made plans… to graduate together. And for life after. I kept encouraging her to “go all the way;” telling her that at our ages (we are both in our fifties) going back to school at this juncture in our lives, stopping at a Bachelor’s degree was almost an insult to ourselves. I kept encouraging my friend to at least achieve her Master’s degree (I intend to achieve my PhD).

Last week I found out my friend Gloria had died. I cannot even write these words without my heart starting a whole new course in breaking. I am simply devastated. As of yet I do not know what happened; but I am praying to find out. Literally praying. What I do know is this: approximately three weeks ago we ran into each other as I was leaving my class and she was waiting on hers to begin. We hugged and reminded each other it was time for our monthly get-together. So, we promised to be in touch and parted. A few days later I started reaching out, via text and calls. All my calls to her cell went directly to voicemail and my calls to her job went to her automated answering service. I tried every couple of days with the same result. At one point I remembered she had told me of her plan to go with her daughter to Mexico; I thought maybe it was that time. After about one week or so I began to be quite uneasy and even sent her a text saying that. No response. This past Tuesday I tried her cell again; voicemail. I called her job and this time someone answered. I asked for her; the woman hesitated. In that moment I knew something was terribly wrong; and, I was correct. She told me Gloria had died; but told me nothing else. Even as I begged for information. For clarity. For something. Anything.

Since then, I have been in a fog of disbelief and grief. Functioning is challenging; but I am even more determined now. And, this is why I am writing to you; I need your help please. In honor of my friend, my sister, I would like to finish her classes… so she could graduate. Please. Gloria had had a difficult middle of life; but she was finally at peace and proud of herself. She had a home and, she had a job. She had school. She had friends who loved her; like me. And, because of that love I would like to honor her. I would like to finish what she started. Her life was interrupted; I know not why. But, her dreams, aspirations and hopes do not all have to be; I am capable of fulfilling a part of it. My plan is this: after this semester, I believe I have finished all the classes necessary to satisfy my major. So, with your help (and with the help of an advisor to ensure I proceed correctly), I would like to know what classes Gloria had left to satisfy her requirements to graduate and, I would like to take those as my electives. This way, we both finish and we both graduate. Please.

I cannot adequately quantify what this means for my soul. I truly need to do this. But, I cannot do this without your help; I do not know what she had left to do. I do know she was a Psychology major and did not have too many classes left. Please, please, please help me to do this for my friend; even where she is she needs this ‘win’ and, God willing, I am capable, able and willing to do this for her. And, for myself. My heart is shattering for all she has lost and, I know what graduating would have meant to her daughter. Please help me to give this to her. From her mom.

Despite my confusion and pain, I will continue to believe that there is a God and, because of that, I pray He not only continues to give me the strength and wisdom to continue with the same attention, dedication and determination I have always employed, but I pray and trust He will guide us all in making the right decisions in this.

I simply want to honor my friend and give to her some of what she has lost.

Please help me.

Thank you.

Diane C. Wiltshire

_________________________

Thank you for your lovely and moving tribute to your colleague. How nice it is to find a kindred spirit with whom you can share your journey in education. It is also wonderful that you found that place at Hunter.

Unfortunately I cannot grant your wish to take the remaining courses for your friend and have her graduate from Hunter. You certainly can take courses but they cannot in any way be transferred to your friend’s educational record. All diplomas and degrees are sanctioned but the state of New York and altering them is a matter of ethics and legality. I know your thoughts are all good and you wish to help your friend and family, but this is not possible.

I wish you all the best in your studies and future adventures.

All the best.
_________________________

My initial thoughts? So many celebrities are given honorary diplomas and degrees just for being what, famous? Rich? Nice guys and gals? However, the State of New York will find what I am asking to do illegal or unethical? Honoring a student who, through no fault of her own, got her life and plans interrupted is unethical? Aiding and allowing me to walk in her remaining academic footsteps to symbolically finish what she had started is not something they can make happen? Or just not willing to make happen?!

Okay. I do not want to add anger to the emotions I feel; at least not yet.

T0 be continued…

 

 

Life, Interrupted.

I know there are seven stages of grief; I am experiencing the first four all at once.

My eyes are swollen. My head hurts. My heart… I try to sleep to block out all conscious thought; yet the reality follows me there and once again, my eyes drown in all the pain they swim in. I cannot believe; yet I know it is true. My friend is gone.

What I do not know, is how. And, the details of how and why she was taken from us are of tantamount importance to me. To help with understanding. And hopefully, healing. Not knowing leaves a gaping hole in the place where our conversations used to live and, if she is never to come back, that hole needs to be closed.

So, I told you on Tuesday she was gone. Only now can I express how I came about this knowledge.

As I stated, we met in a Psychology class a few years ago; and, as we were of similar age and consequently realized we had similar histories, our friendship, our sisterhood was founded. Gloria also has one daughter. She, like me, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. We’re both Scorpios. We both have paid our dues at the hands of others and lived to tell the tale. Our histories informed our present and were supposed to have informed our futures for many more years to come.

Sigh.

We juggle and at time struggled to manage home, school and work; but we did it. And, we made time for each other. Every month. At least once a month. And, if necessary, for an errant stressor, need for some clarity, good news, birthday, social occasion that warranted shopping (yep, usually mine), we would squeeze in more time. My point is, this was a friendship, and a sisterhood we committed to amongst life’s other demands. Because well, it was important to us and we needed it. School at our age is tough; and we celebrated the knowing the other had in recognizing that. We had grown-up realities that needed regular expression and thankfully, we were able to do that together. We pushed each other for better… grades, papers, lives. We used our pasts to fuel our present and to burn a path to follow for our futures.

It was time to get together for our monthly pow-wow. Some ‘girl time’ was needed. I ran into Gloria approximately three weeks ago in school after class one day; we hugged, squealed at the random meeting and planned to call to set up our date. A few days later I started calling. Her mobile went to voice-mail and at her office, my call was answered by one of those corporate answering things. I didn’t panic. A few days later when the fog of my own life parted, I again tried; same results. Then I remembered she was to have gone on vacation to Mexico with her daughter, so I thought that was why I could not reach her. I waited. Last week, I tried; the same. On Friday I sent a text that said, “Okay, I am starting to worry. Are you okay?” No response. On Tuesday morning I called her mobile. Voice-mail. I called her job. Someone answered. I asked for her. The person hesitated. And in that pause, my heart moved to my throat and I asked (or maybe yelled), “Is she there? Is she okay?!” She wasn’t. She isn’t. They told me my friend had died. And, that is all they would tell me.

I have tried Googling her. Nothing. I am no longer on FB but tried to go on to see if I could see anything; I can’t find her. I have left my name and number at her job and asked if they would pass it on to family; I hope they do. In the meantime, I struggle. I struggle with the incredible pain of loss. And, I struggle with trying not to fill in the blanks myself. My head is filled with all the possibilities of what could have happened to my friend. I lose my mind thinking she could have suffered. That she knew what was to happen. God, I pray she didn’t! Tears blind me at the thought of her daughter; knowing that if my heart is shattering, hers must be in pieces scattered everywhere. I want to see her. I want to see if there is anything I could do for her now or in the future. I want to share with her all her mother and I shared about her. I want to tell her just how sorry I am. And, I want her to know her mother will be so very missed. And was so very loved by me.

So, I pray someone, when they can, gets in touch with me. In the meantime, I will wait. And pray. I will grieve. And, I will find the strength to keep on that path my friend Gloria and I spoke of. My steps may be slower and my footprints will be deeper, because this I vow to do… I will carry my friend over that academic finishing line, through my achievements, in both our names.

Gloria, I miss you. I love you. And, I am so very sorry your story got interrupted. Until we meet again know that through my tears, through my pain and through all the grief I feel, I will make you proud. I got us down here, Sister. You take care of you up there.

 

 

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