Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A New Year - What Would I Be?

Today is my birthday and I think for the first time, I am really feeling like I'm starting to get old.

Every year I like to be in a better place than last year. With every year that goes by I try to become a better person than I was the year before.

This past year I think I accomplished that in some areas. I graduated and I found a job that I love. I went on some fun trips to visit family and my husband and I managed our first major road trip together. He got a good job this year too, so we're doing well career-wise. That's a big relief because many people aren't. I've published more work and have had little pieces in a major magazine TWICE! And I'm talking a big magazine that they sell in the grocery store aisle. No, not The Star. I spent some fun times with friends, though not enough and I've managed to stick with acupuncture.

Still, I have a lot of areas to work on. This coming year is going to be two things. First, it's going to be the Year of Family. This means that I want to strengthen my bonds with my large, extended family. I want to be an active part of several families that I belong to. I want to be more family oriented. It also means that I need to come to terms with some family issues I have which I haven't written about. This year, some of my relationships with relatives have suffered severely in a way that has caused me a lot of anxiety and sadness. I don't know how I will deal with them. I will either mend the relationships or I will have to trash them completely and accept with compassionate detachment that some people are fucking crazy and there's no logic to crazy and nothing I can do about it. Maybe I will be able to learn to not take their crazy to heart.

This is also going to be The Year I Work on My Anger Problem. I have an anger problem. I don't think I've written about it here, but maybe I should. I am often angry, rage-filled and bitter. I don't want to be that way. I lash out at the people I love most because I am frustrated. I think I never learned to express anger and stress in productive ways. Sometimes I think I inherited a cruelty gene from my biological father that makes me push away the people who are the nicest to me. He does that and I hate that I do it too.

Sometimes I am the kind of angry that gets violent and wants to destroy or hurt things. This has to change. I know why I'm angry. I'm angry because I feel I was cheated out of certain things that I deserved in life. But really, who wasn't cheated out of something? I am certainly not alone in that camp. I need to get over it. I need to figure out how to stop being so mad. I really have no idea how to do this.

I want to be a better writer. I want to be a better person. I want to stop cussing too. Honestly, I have such a foul, unladylike mouth. It's probably related to my anger, which is probably related to my family. It all ties together. All this stuff is connected. Even my writing. What do you think I write about? Family and anger. There you go. And then I cuss in my writing too.

And then there is charity. Every year on my birthday I give to charity. I do this because I came to Earth to give instead of take. I want the world to be a tiny bit better because I was here. I do it because I just have too much when most people lack. I have so much. The lifestyle I lead is decadent and wasteful. Because I have been given so much, I have to give something in return and I don't give nearly as much as I should.

Every year I highlight a certain charity that is special to me and ask blog readers to try to give a little bit, especially since many people are looking to give to charities this time of year anyway. You may be saying that last year I didn't. Last year my grandfather died and as a way to honor his memory I donated all year to his church and obviously I wasn't going to broadcast his church all over the Internet. It was part of my grieving process and I wanted to be a little more low key than usual.

This year is different. A few months ago my husband heard a song that moved me to weep. I just couldn't stop crying when I heard this song. It is "Emma" by Emmanuel Jal, an African Gospel Hip/Hop artist. Jal is Sudanese. As a child, his family was killed in the war there and he was recruited to be a child soldier. He was saved and smuggled into the safety of Kenya by a British Aid worker named Emma McCune, who then died in a car accident a couple months later. He got to go to school and became a big star. In the song "Emma" he tells about his life and asks the question "What would I be if Emma never rescued me?"

We should all be a little more like Emma McCune. We should all try to rescue each other.

To honor Emma's memory, Jal is building a school in South Sudan called Emma Academy. You can read all about it here.

Emma Academy is my birthday charity this year. They need so little money - only 250,000$ for the whole thing and they are almost halfway there. I think we can help them get a little bit further. You can donate here if you so choose. I hope you can, but I will still love you anyway, even if you don't.

At the very least, please, please watch this video of Emmanuel Jal at TED. He sings the song at the end and if you don't cry you have a heart several sizes too small. It is absolutely awe inspiring.

Here is the song. Tell me you don't love this song. It's my gift to you.

I think in all of our lives, at some point, there was someone who has rescued us from something, even in a tiny way. I want to be that person to a lot of people. I want you to be that too. If you don't donate, and I completely understand that most people can't, then for me, just thank the person who rescued you, even if they're dead or you have no idea where they are. Call them, write them letters (even if you can't send them), thank them in your blog posts. Look at the sky and thank them. Visit their graves and thank them. Then go rescue someone else.


Christian Marie said...

Thank you for the post. A good reminder that we are more than just ourselves.

I too struggle with an anger issue. I am not sure how to deal with it either- other than just writing it out and trying to be grateful for what I have. For me, I think part of the answer is discipline. As with anything we can train our minds to overcome negative thoughts if we are mindful and tell those thoughts to just "cut it out!".

Delainie said...


That was a beautiful song. You are an amazing writer. You don't come across to me like an angry person, you've just seen so many thins and a lot of them need the tone and cussing to tell the story. And you *always* tell a great story! Just be you, we like you. :)

I hope you have a fabulous birthday!

Albany Jane said...

You are very thoughtful on your birthday. I have to admit, I was just thinking "Ugh, I'm getting old, this sucks. Poor me."

Happy Birthday.

I think it is very admirable that you become better and better every year, and map out steps to do so. So often people just say their goals with no actual plan of how to achieve them.

Anonymous said...

Are there lyrics for that song typed up somewhere? Because if I don't cry it's probably because a) I just did my crying over a different issue b) I'm not a native English speaker and I don't understand what he's singing.

The anger gene:

Shannon Culver said...

My very wise sister, on noticing my bitterness said, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." I loved that. It helped me. I hope it's helpful to you too.

Shannon Culver said...

And by the way, Happy Birthday! I hope its memorable and the highest mark so far on your scale of becoming a better person. What a lofty and noble goal! Thanks for the inspiration!

bendalong said...

Happy Birthday! This post is great and I just donated also.

Stephanie said...

Happy birthday! I struggle with anger as well. I believe it comes from my father - we clash often because of our terrible tempers. For my father, it's gotten better with age. He's more mellow now and realizes it's not worth it to be angry all the time. For me, it's just been emerging and I'm trying to stay positive more often. It's hard, but I just think about how much richer my life would be if I could see the good in everyone :) (My inner pessimist tells me that isn't possible...)

Thank you so much for sharing this song. If you want to read the lyrics... (IMO, I find the message sinks in better if you listen to it first without understanding what an artist is singing, and just try to grasp the emotion behind it, and THEN reading the lyrics and listening to it all over again!) go to http://www.ted.com/talks/emmanuel_jal_the_music_of_a_war_child.html , click "Open Interactive Transcript" on the sidebar and you will find his entire speech plus the song lyrics. Enjoy :)

Paige said...

Happy birthday!

Prudence Octavia said...

Happy Birthday! This make you a fellow Scorpio - yay!

Pat said...

Happy Birthday!

Those are some painful reveals. Now acknowledged, they'll be there to work on.

I wish you success in your journey.

kerry said...

Happy birthday! Congratulations on your progress and good luck on your future progress. I admire you for mapping it out like that.

Thank you for the reminder about giving back. I need to do that more than I do.

UmmFarouq said...

Happy Birthday, Wide Lawns.
I struggle with anger issues, too. I also want to be a better writer, a better person. And I also got the shaft regarding lots of things I thought I was entitled to as a child. So many parallels, commonalities. That's why I keep coming back to read.

Wishing you a great year of success on so many levels.

Heather said...

Happy birthday (belatedly). I hope you're able to make great strides toward your goals this year. And I hope one day I'm reading a magazine and recognize your writing style and finally solve the mystery of who you are. :)

I just donated to Emma Academy, too, in honor of you, author of my favorite blog.

ScouterRoger said...

Happy Birthday to you.
Good luck on your progress to being a better person.
I really, really enjoy your stories and hope to read more.
Now that I am no longer a statistic (unemployed) I can think about giving to charities instead of wondering how the mortgage is going to be paid.
Thanks for the links to Emma Academy.

Jean_Phx said...

Happy Birthday to you!

Sinclair said...

Happy Belated B-day WL. I clicked on the link and forgot to wish you a great year ahead.

My anger medicine is my husband. You need 2 to tango, you need 2 to fight and he's just not confrontational. It might be the whole California cool attitude. Anyway he's a happy go lucky guy and doesn't bother with silly fights. In 6 years together he's changed me a lot, without even trying, just by example. Still, when I look at him, I realize just how much further I want to go.

Katherine said...

Happy Birthday!
The nice thing about getting older is most of us mellow with age.....

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! And thank you for sharing that song.

What was done said...

Getting old is only in our mind.
Age never prevented people from doing things:

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