Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

A Mixture of Bitter and Sweet

By Shavawn Berry @ShavawnB
Missing You by Christian Schloe

Missing You by Christian Schloe

For C & L

Perception = Reality

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

~ Mary Oliver, When Death Comes

In lots of ways, this was a dark week for me. A friend called to say she’d gotten a devastating diagnosis. I went out for a fun evening with another friend and the person we went to see (a poet) chose to use her renown to reinforce racial stereotypes and share her deeply entrenched bitterness, rather than inspire and hearten the audience.

On the way home, we hit a feral cat. We tried to find it to help it, but couldn’t.

I cried for half the night.

This week, the cracks in the veneer of my family that have largely remained hidden over the past few years, became glaringly apparent. Suffice it to say, we’re not a particularly happy bunch right now. I have every faith we will eventually be happy again, but right now things are sort of terrible. One family member has done things that other family members find reprehensible and a long simmering, now blazing, war has broken out.

In the middle of it, my mother, whose whole life has been dismantled by this rift, is packing and readying to leave her home for my home.

It’s a big, teeming, ugly mess.

It was the kind of week that makes you hit your knees and start to pray.

It was the kind of week that makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong.

It was the kind of week that makes you reassess everything.

Turning the Wheel

And, maybe, that was the point.

I can focus on the terrible news.  That’s easy.  Everybody’s doing it.

I can mourn a precious being that likely lost its life.

I can lament the ways in which my family’s forgotten how to talk to one another.

Or, I can turn the wheel and head this thing in a different direction.

Choose Light

So, when I look back on the events of the week, I can instead choose to see everything — not just the dark bits.

This week as a teacher, I felt inspired. The students engaged with the course materials and we had wonderful, far reaching discussions of business ethics, the public good, the changes that need to happen. I reminded them they’re the ones who will lead the fight to implement change.

I went out for Thai food with the good friend who was driving when we hit kitty; we unpacked our challenges and comforted one another.

I reminded myself that I have money in the bank to pay my bills and cover my rent and feed myself and my animals.

When I talked to my friend about her illness, we ended up laughing through much of the conversation.

“Well, I’ve always said the one truth of life is, if you are born, you are going to die.  No one gets out of here alive.”

We screamed with laughter and she told me a really awful (but still funny) joke. We talked about what might be next (surgery, other treatment options), and she sounded hopeful.


And that’s something.

Choose Transformation

When a whole crew of my high school drama buddies (people I’ve known since the 1970s) and one Buddhist Facebook friend went over to help my mom pack her relocation cubes yesterday, I remembered that the world is full of good people doing good things. When my friend, J, came by and we went to see the astonishing Richard Linklater film, Boyhood, I remembered the multiple instances of incredible kindness I experienced from her and others all week. When I recalled looking into the wide open faces of the freshmen I am teaching — seeing their hope and their longing — I realized that I cannot allow myself to fall into bitterness like the poet I heard this week. I never want my work to exclude or depress or insult.

I want to live from a place of true integrity.

I learned a lot this week.

I learned a lot about how I want to move through the world and what I would like my eventual legacy to be.

And I learned a lot about who I do not want to be.

Yep. I learned that even in all this darkness — all this difficulty and despair — everything harbors light.


© 2014  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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