Every day I interact with young people who are struggling to get through another obstacle life has thrown in their path. These are young men and women, some still boys and girls, whom I’ve come to call my children because they are; spiritually, emotionally and universally. I read their brilliant prose on FB where they brazenly lay out the raw, brutal reality of lost childhoods, broken promises, painful mistakes they’ve made that are cut into the story that is their life, unable to be shaken by a joint or a rum and coke or a college degree. And every day, with every story, every cry for help, I am helpless. Maybe not completely, but sometimes when my heart is breaking a little too much too often, helpless is how it feels. I help where I can with support, guidance and love, and resources where I have them. But I know the truth is that ALL of the work is theirs. It’s that way for all of us, but somehow witnessing young people experience the journey of life in such profound ways feels more difficult than anything I have personally ever had to endure. Recognizing that they have to find their own strength, their own courage, their own fight (yet again) to pick themselves up and walk out of the darkness of their surroundings and experiences, I am pained by the acknowledgement that I cannot go get them and carry them out. If I do that, I get in the way of whatever lesson it is they are trying to put behind them. Whatever healing is meant to happen. And so I sit, with all of my friends and fellow ‘parents’ who are able to see the Light in all of our children. We sit together, at the opening of that proverbial cave, with candles. Encouraging, guiding, willing them to get up and keep moving. If they could only see us. If they only knew how enormously valuable they are to us. I have to believe they can do it. I have to believe they will. My heart needs to believe it.
I try to teach my teenage son that every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. . .
The part I leave out right now, is that sometimes the pain of that growth is so debilitating that your heart is begging for another way to “learn the lesson”.
Seventeen years ago today when my dad died suddenly at 56, it felt like someone took a knife to my heart and twisted it. I had a conversation with him on the phone at 9:30pm on a Tuesday, and Wednesday morning at 8:30am my brother called me to tell me he died. That was it. That was the end of the book. I didn’t get a do-over, I didn’t get a warning. Just over.
My dad died when I was 30 years old, and it threw me for a loop. The kids I work with experience a much greater agony at 2, at 9, at 14. I’ve heard children tell stories of holding their best friend in their arms while they bled out on the street, or watching their father gunned down in front of their home. I remember the gamut of emotions that followed my loss. I can’t even imagine the emotions that follow in acts of senseless violence. And people wonder why children kill. When I meet a 14 year old killer I don’t look at them as “an adult monster”, I want to know what happened to them in 14 years to give them the pain of a 40 year old. Because only in recognizing the brokenness, can we find healing.
My son will never know his Pop-pop, and God-willing, he will never know violence up close and personal. But he will benefit from all that I learned from my dad. Most importantly, he will benefit from the lesson I learned from his passing:
Love the people you have in your life, so if and when it’s time for you to depart from one another, you can more easily get to that place of peace where you say, “We had a great life together.”
I had a great life with my dad.
Why would I write about the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss?
Because my brush with him and the glamour of the Los Angeles Lakers “Showtime” world in the 1980s, illustrates a dichotomy of my life that has always fascinated me (when it wasn’t traumatizing me, of course). In my “previous life”, my 20s and 30s, I had the privilege of enjoying many dinners at Dr. Buss’s private table in the Forum Club, and then watching the game from his box. A “box” in the Forum days, was as VIP as it got before someone came up with the brilliant idea of luxury suites. This is not about throwing names around or bragging. It’s about how I felt being both comfortable and uncomfortable in this awesome fantasy world. As a young woman, I was terribly insecure hangin’ amongst the company of Playboy playmates and stunning models, with guys making every play they could think of to garner their attention. Trust me, the only reason I was there was because of my boyfriend. I couldn’t even pretend to pull off that image.
The conflict existed because I was more interested in hearing what Dr. Buss was talking about with respect to the team and basketball business. The chatter of the girls got on my nerves because they were distracting him from what I really wanted to hear. I wanted to be in my seat before the game started and sitting there until the final buzzer went off. I didn’t have time for all the “stuff” that made the ‘Showtime’ world, all the more enticing to the masses. I was enamored with watching Magic, Kareem, James and Byron.
For me, sitting within breathing distance of Dr. Jerry Buss was a privilege. . .as a basketball fan. He was a brilliant man, a kind heart and the epitome of what a sports franchise owner should be. . .
From the chick who fit in, but didn’t fit in. . .
Reflection is a good thing. It presents the opportunity to look back at choices we’ve made in the last year, decade…or decadeS as life tumbles on. If you’ve lived a colorful life, the reflections can sometimes be blurry (years 19-23 for me) or painful or empowering. Reflection, as we get older, is remembering a life well lived, in the mud of self-discovery and the pride of embracing what the universe has brought our way. It’s reading a great book of which we are the sole author, protagonist and antagonist.
Sometimes reflections blend years together, like periods of time defined by a pattern of experiences instead of contained within the months of January through December. Those “19-23” years for me were a period of self-indulgence. I spent 31 years being defined by the title of someone’s partner or someone’s mom, a crutch I didn’t realize I had created, until becoming an empty-nester with no choice but to stand in the world alone and decide once and for all who I want to be in the world.
This transition of decades, my reflections have focused on how far I have come in my life. The choices I have made to stand in the shadow of another’s Light. To diminish my power to make room for other’s. To sacrifice what I need to satisfy the needs of someone else. They have all been decisions I own and made from a place of love, my own insecurities, or my own constitution that drives me to want to make everyone happy.
What I have learned along the way is that not everyone respects others’ time or life. Not everyone is self-aware enough to recognize the impact of their actions. I’ve nearly burned out trying to be everywhere and everything for everyone. Thinking the “single mom” challenges would make me look weak if I couldn’t juggle it all, I sat at basketball games working on my laptop, as a colleague called wondering how I could leave the office when “things needed to be done”. I have come home from exhausting my energies supporting other peoples’ challenges and needs to realize I had nothing left for my own child. We all have days when we’re not at our best and can bring unnecessary stress to the people we care about. I am most difficult to be around when ignoring my instincts screaming that life is out of balance…my signal that change needs to happen. I have weathered some of the most consistently difficult, unaware people in my personal and professional life. Along the way I have realized that none of them are responsible for my life, none of them have to own my decisions, and none of them can stop me.
The experiences of my tumultuous years have helped me let go of things I no longer need. Things that no longer feed me in a positive way. We can get stuck in places and relationships that don’t serve us, trying to prove a point, trying to be something we are not meant to be. I am improving at letting go, with love and appreciation, but just letting go. No wallowing. No hesitating. No time for that.
As I reflect another decade mastered, I stand tall. I stand comfortable alone in the world and comfortable in the powerful tribe I have built along the way. I welcome a new phase of life, excited about what lies ahead. I reflect with a heart full of love.
Reflection is good. It can help uncover our Purpose.