Category Archives: Just Living

Man Up! How?

I’ve spent the weekend in the presence of up to 30 men. An environment where masculinity and mental health within men were explored with a view to an eventual performance. It gave scope for bonding, conversing, unlocking doors to experiences that have brought joy, pain and indifference. It allowed creatives to create and every voice to be heard.

At the end of the first day, my niggling thought was, can I separate masculinity from race? I ignored the thought because I didn’t have a place in this sphere.  At the end of the second day, it returned. The truth is I don’t know if I can make a definitive separation.

Whereas some groups have to an extent, found a voice to articulate their struggles and versions of their humanity, I cannot say that my voice has the capacity to capture hearts in the same way. Some go as far as labelling other groups as “the new black” as they draw parallels with being a minority group, and discriminatory attitudes towards them. This is not to say that I am jealous of the shift towards social acceptance, or seek to dismiss their voices. Rather, being within earshot of this has been a trigger, a point of reference from which I begin another journey of understanding.

When I entered the room ahead of the session, I entered as a creative. I entered simply seeking inspiration and hoping that I might write something I could show off. That was the way I would get by.

My masculinity has been heavily influenced by cultural expectations, traditions and race-based perceptions. They have been compounded by faith based interpretations of manhood.  I don’t get to see myself as just a man. I am black man and whisper it….I’m a Christian. To the world around me, to the world inside of me.

I am not socially acceptable in my real form in as many spaces as others are afforded.

In seeking to stay on topic I kept my mention of race down to one conversation to provide context for my story. I didn’t want to as people say….play the race card. Was this men’s space a white space?

In the black community, we are pretty expressive, yet Mental Health is something we collectively seem to be quieter on. My mother was a mental health nurse so she was and still is aware of the signs when particularly I have encountered struggles with mine. In wanting the best, tough love was a method of dealing with it. Yet even in that I was never just a man. Always a black man.

“You are a black man…..you cannot afford to let yourself slip. You cannot afford to….”

I have always had to be aware of how I speak, how I act so that someone else feels better about themselves. At times it feels like as a black man, I don’t really get to have a safe space because I am going to be a threat to someone. I am going to be lumped with some part of society. I am part of something that will be invaded by well-meaning trend seekers who will sell a version of me back to me as though they were Christopher Columbus.

If I show I’m intelligent, I’m a threat so I’m getting passed on for promotions and meaningful career development activity.  If I wear certain clothes, I’m a threat. If I show that I’m angry I’m a threat. Then there’s the projections of promiscuity and prowess. I self-edit constantly to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.

Should I seek black spaces?

Again….do I get to have shared experiences? After all I am male, I was once a child that has become a man.

However, as a child in primary school, my white headmistress sent for me during lunch time. She told me that a black kid has to work 100 times harder than a white kid. I wasn’t given any reasons as to why she chose that moment to give me “the fact of life” that many black kids have drummed into them from birth. Yet, it eroded my self-confidence as a child.

Through the years, versions of this were re-iterated in order to keep me on the straight and narrow. I was even told that if I was a white guy, I’d be ten-a-penny. That I should be fortunate that black people are a minority, as it’s the only way I would stand out.

Shared experiences where being black doesn’t have a say in proceedings seem few and far between. Celebrity deaths get more reaction than folks arrested for waiting at Starbucks. Maybe that’s a different issue. Somehow, somewhere, between principles and expectations, nature and preference, I exist

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Filed under Just Living, Non Poetic Blogs

Down Day

Image result for feeling down

 

They say men are made from stuff women aren’t.

Stronger hands, harder hearts

You can take a beating and dare not flinch

The measure of man’s tiers found in grit not ink.

 

He’s made of wildest dreams and infinite schemes

A man is built to last.

He can plot a tree and chop down forests.

Just women’s ages he dare not ask.

 

A man should have money, a man should have style.

A man commands the stage.

Men have no fear, knows lust not love.

Being a MAN is all the rage.

 

So why do good ones fall and bad ones rise?

Is it safe to even ask?

Is it weak to cry, will he be despised?

Is it wise to be about that?

 

I’m drowning in supposed to be.

What I’m not has been my yoke.

If I’m a man or so I claim will my man card be revoked?

 

I guess I’ll hang from ropes you beat me with.

My failures and dented pride.

When love is lost we count the cost.

No hope and suicide.

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Filed under Just Living, Random Poetics

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Some days, the world closes in around me.

For minutes at a time, the earth shakes as though a thousand dormant volcanoes have erupted in unison.

I chase after my breaths like a 5-year-old with bubbles on a breezy afternoon.

I am deaf to the beat of my heart.

The sun orbits the earth before I come around to the understanding of my plight.

I am at war with my shadow.

Afraid of fading from view, I like stringing sentences like tennis rackets.

Mantras slip through my fingers like perfect ex’s.

Questioning supposed recklessness I break fast.

Peace is a stranger that refuses to converse.

I silence the alarm despite being raised by a nurse.

Always an episode instead of a series.

The script seems more powerful every time.

Maybe this is what I deserve.

Payback for the other side of me.

Maybe it’s the design for me

Anxiety.

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Filed under Just Living, Random Poetics

Mortal Man

malcolm-1

Can mortal man get everything his way?

As long as there is power to be had and money made

With that religion he’s a God or so he plays

So, acts of God aren’t covered by insurance

Who’s his author? Scriptwriter for this performance

Who’s really under force majeure?

Can mortal man get everything his own way?

Doors open and shut, string has to be cut

How long we can we hold a note?

When is it too short?

Can it ever be the right length?

Can mortal man get everything his own way?

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Filed under 30 day challenge, Just Living, Random Poetics

Sailing

FreeGreatPicture.com-1203-sailing-high-definition-material

The ship has sailed, but the sea lingers

Her fingers still fondle my timbers

The spine kindles like tinder.

Blocks shading the so-called rub of the green, my heart beats turn to cinders

When I look into the future and remember I kiss my present with the question.

Why does the sea linger?

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Filed under Just Living, Relationships

Blooming Marvellous

This week has been an inspiring one, full of themes and quotes that I could build poetry from. My favourite quote has been “Follow the contour of the road”.

The context was a driving lesson where my mind was over-thinking and I took a straight line through a couple of lanes.

Many times we embark on a path only to crash or come to a dead end because we want it to be a straight line. If we want to go into a different room of our house we have to turn a corner at some point.

It’s like life is a colouring book given to us with every colour Crayola could offer, yet we choose one and use it on every page. Not only that, when that colour runs out we try to re-create that colour and feel stressed because the other colours aren’t it. Let your beach scenes be just that!

For me following the contour of the road, like my perception of my writing, acknowledges that which is behind me whilst concentrating on that ahead.

I was moved to anger and sadness having recently learned, through a documentary, that my surname was given by British slave masters in Jamaica. That said, Positive Reflection has sandwiched the joy of my birthday and other accomplishments the last 7 days.

Confession time…I rarely use the word happy in conversations about myself. Perhaps it is a blessing and a curse at times that like my father, I’m a perfectionist at heart. Yet from passing my driving theory test to the surprises from my wife, my side of my family, and even from my team at work have made feel happy. I cried tears of joy a few times on my birthday, having felt a forceful combination of joy and contentment. I was happy.

A brownie cake baked by one of my team.

A brownie cake baked by one of my team.

Maybe you’ve lived your whole life to the fullest using every part of your brain’s capacity, or maybe like me, you’re steadily realising where you’re at and beginning to make it better than it’s ever been.

The words Attitude and Commitment sum up my last 12 months and will be the backbone of the next 12, and the 12 beyond that. I left 32 knowing with an outline of the scenes I want to add colour to throughout my 33rd year.  Perhaps the biggest challenge and change in this part of my life is committing to commitment.

If it helps, write down the new places you’ve been, things you’ve done that you didn’t do before. You might realise very quickly how much you have lived, learned or even want to do!

I love rhythm, find yours and Smile!

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Filed under Just Living, Non Poetic Blogs

Drifter

Watching a Father losing his son in front of his eyes.

Seeing the screams barricade his heart in the name of strength

Like the last drop of water rung from a spun load

A tear fell

Traffic stopped, my eyes gazed sky wards

Watching my Father like a worn watch

Praying for time, wondering what will happen when

It happens

There’s a first time for everything they say

He hugs me now with more strength than he ever disciplined me with

We are old friends that once were foes

It’ll soon be time for me to complete the circle

I hope we can hula hoop, if but for a moment

Though some stone him, his shoes I have grown in

Shunning the shade of shalom with my mother’s tongue

I am my Father’s son,

Enlightened I wonder when that which will be has come

Will I be bound or free

Torn between his life and my existence

Conflicted.

A little boy lost

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Filed under Just Living