A Mixed Reaction

IMG_5731I look at my canvas and think that Liberty is a bitch.  She has a decidedly European face and means freedom but not for all.  What if I were to make her black with a hint of caramel?  Give her dreadlocks and a spear, a nose wide as the horizon, a red dawn of pain to be born upon? Keep her eyes green for balance?  I think of my own power and how I’ve been protecting others from it.  I think of my art as a guide to what I need to be paying attention to.  I find myself reeling, hurting, needing to see my grandmother as the world goes mad.  I need to see her and let her love me and let her know that I love her as the world goes mad.

 

We are veterans, she and I, in this war against hate.

IMG_5735I need her to know that our hard-fought-for-forgiveness still stands and towers over the harm she did before my life began.  I need her to know that I remember she tried to destroy my father and my mother’s love for him and that her family wanted to have me killed in the womb.  I need her to know that I remember AND love her still.

I need her to see the truth before she dies – the impact of her upbringing on her family and the fact that love can conquer even this.  I need her to know that I am here and I will hold her hand as she struggles over the stones placed in just the right places to be treacherous as her old feet seek a solid place to stand.  She will not fall because I am here, black and white and strong and forgiving all that has been done.

I also need to thank her for showing me hate and how it works and for making the journey to the half-way point where I could meet her.  Contrary to jaded belief, I did not need to defeat her.  It took listening to understand from both places on either side of the divide.  It took hearing the hurt beneath the hate, the love beneath the pain, the cry to be seen and accepted for us to be one again.  Because we weren’t born to be two.  Disharmony is learned and distrust is hard-earned.

IMG_5741My brown arm reaches out to steady her age-spotted once-white frame as she shuffles one uncertain foot in front of the other, reaching out unsteady, shifting weight slowly so as to allow the ground time to earn her trust – as she must have done with me.  I need to see her today so she can put a balm on my wounds, rub my scars with gentle hands now wise to the lie she was told and told herself.  We are not so different.  I need to clean the flesh wounds and bind the bones from the week spent fighting with her kin struggling to let the light into their dark thoughts.  I need her to remind me that the love on the other side is worth the war we wage today.  My own blood – her people – would care as little if it were me shot in cold blood in front of my children or my local supermarket.  My own flesh and blood would be fine with it if it were my blood spilled.  When those who love me cry out “her life matters!”  they will counter with “All lives matter.”  They would help the system find a way to say I’d asked for it – after all “she was no saint.”  They would care more about the police coming and taking their gun from their suburban homes than the white hoods or blue uniforms drawing me – their cousin – from my bed and hanging me from the nearest tree.  She was no saint.  She drove ten miles above the speed limit to work every day.  She never used her turning signals to switch lanes.  She was asking for it.  She was no saint.

IMG_5777I need my grandmother today.  For her I don’t need to be a saint.  She won’t say a word.  She won’t mention the news she’s been glued to immobile all week in her house alone.  She won’t mention the hurt on my face or the limp I walk into the house with.  She won’t even see the blood-red paint on my hands from the blood of Liberty that I’ve been moving around to keep my longing limbs coiled for a fight from adding to the harm already happening in the world.  I will have to show her.

She will be glad to see me, pat the arm I offer, and squeeze my hand as she draws me closer.  The best thing that ever happened to her, she says.  God gave me to her, she says.

May God give every one of my racist kin a black baby to love.

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I am serious.  May all the young of my family find love in smoothe black embraces and may they kiss the faces of the killers of their hatred.  May a beige-coloured love be our only fate as humanity faces the dawn of a new age.  As people picket, pretending that the line between them exists, I will raise my afro-hooded face and lift my green eyes to the sky and call the divide of race a lie.  The black spots of age bursting through the milk-white skin on my grandmother’s arms reveal the false god of white-supremacy.

In the end only the colors of love and wisdom win.

INDEPENDENCE

Fifty years ago today a three-year old boy stepped off a ship from London and into a foreign land.  It had been his second ship that year.  The first was from Ghana to London, from all that he had ever known and ever lost.  His Daddy was a few steps behind, shoulders ramrod straight, big hands holding his baby brother.  He was only a babe.  The little boy didn’t speak English.  His baby brother didn’t speak at all.  All that they knew of life had changed overnight.

An air of grief clung to the party of three – the giant man and the two little boys.  The toddler’s eyes would have been as wide as saucers as he was prodded ahead down the gangway.  Trunks and cases would have followed – but not many.  Maybe just one.  Their Mummy did not come with them.

I can imagine him now, forgetting for a second that she was not there and searching the passengers behind him for a sign of her skirt, her hand, the sound of her laugh.  No one had explained to him but he understood – the knowledge broke his little heart as he remembered he would not find her here.  Or anywhere.  She was gone from him.

What greeted him at the end of the pier was another world, another life, another language, another people.  They were dancing in the streets.  His grief collided with their jubilation on this hot August day.  Colourful skirts would have been twirling, women with round figures and heads tied with colourful cloth would have been dancing around with bare-chested or cotton-clad men singing, lifting their arms in excitement, bawling out in prayer and praise.  He heard one word chanted over and over from the boiling masses on land – In-dep-end-ence.  Was it one word or four?  What did it mean?

It must have been something very special but he would not have known for a few more years.  It would not be his first English word.  That word would be “For”.  The first phrase he would speak in the language of his parents would be “For health and strength and daily food we praise Thy name oh Lord, Amen.”  He would learn to sing it from the woman standing waiting on the shore.  She looked a bit like Mummy had but tiny and with more wrinkles.  She wasn’t much bigger than him and she was a good deal smaller than Daddy.  As he walked down toward her she would have bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around him and lifted him into her embrace.

I wish I could tell him to be brave, this little boy, as Mama Birdie held him to her chest and reached for his sickly baby brother.  I wish I could tell him you will grow.  You will learn.  You will travel.  You will succeed.  You will play football with Bob Marley.  You will climb a mountain in Cumbria.  You will race go karts with your children.  You will meet Fidel Castro.  You will know God.  You will know love.  And you will have me.

A daughter who loves you and is proud of who you have become.

Happy Independence Day Daddy.  Happy Birthday Jamaica.

Little Sister

Little Sister,

I pray to God that
you remain in a
beautiful
peaceful ignorance.

I will take care of you,
I will keep you under
the veil of my adamant protection.

I will carry you where
you need to go.
I will look left and right
before you cross the road,
cross the city,
cross the world.

If you cross too fast,
I will pull the imaginary
umbilical cord
between
your head
and
my heart,

And drag you back
maybe kicking, or screaming,
or crying, or smiling,
but for your own good.

I make myself the
tree – old, wise-
knowing and
with endless branches
of experience
that explode in
different directions.

My hope for you is
that you will be
strongly rooted: my little tree.

Grow beside me,
never leave. Imitate
my branches of success.
This is my gift to you.

But you don’t want this gift.

You say
you cannot grow strong
so close beside me.

You say that you are
dying in the damp dark.
You say I block you
from sunlight.

So instead you choose
to be my leaves.
Surrounding my dark
branches, growing from
their so called magic.

You are all around
inside me.
You receive
your much desired sunlight
from all angles.
You careen in the wind,
but every night
you rest,
on me.

Okay.

Little sister,
you rise
and sway with me
every afternoon, and

as much as this
connection warms me,
as much as I grow stronger
in your
presence,

I know that one day,
you’ll start to change
colour,

Slowly – and maybe even
behind my back.

And everyone sees how gorgeous you are.

People want
to take pieces of you
home

And you let them.

I pray to God that
winter never arrives.

I know that by then you
would have
completely fallen away,
blown away,
floated away.

Not only would I have
been stripped of my
beauty
and purpose
by your chilling departure.

I won’
t
know where
you are.
I won’
t

be able
to pull
you back
to me.
I won’
t be able
to
pro-
pro-
pro-
tect-
you.

If you ever do
come back,
You won’t be
the same.

I beg you not to
allow the elements of the world
to pick
and pull you
away from my dark security.

For if you do
I know
that the
mi
se
ry
will be so great…

that I will pray
for the beautiful,
peaceful ignorance
I
tried
to give
you.

xo
Bushlette

Keli Thorsteinsson ~ THE GOLDEN HAT

THIS BOY HAD A GOLDEN HAT.

THE HAT WAS MAGICAL.  IT COULD TALK.

THE BOY DID NOT HAVE ANY VOICE.  HE HAD AUTISM.

HIS HAT WAS ALWAYS WITH HIM.

HIS HAT WAS LOST ONE DAY.

NOW HE HAD NO WAY OF TELLING THEM HIS STORIES.

HIS MOM AND DAD BECAME SAD.

THEY TAUGHT HIM SPELLING ON A LETTERBOARD.

IT WAS HARD.

END.

~For all the children of the world like Keli, Singlestreaming now features a link to The Golden Hat Foundation on the sidebar.  Please click on this box when you have a chance and learn more about the Golden Hat Foundation.

Haircuts

Last night I heard the story of how my aunt Lina cut her hair.

It was 1981.  She had had two children.  She had lost all the weight and was as fit as could be.  Had the look of shining health I imagine – even today she is the picture of a healthy life albeit with a cigarette.  She walked into the salon one day and said cut it off!  It was GORGEOUS she says.  I was HOT!

She was telling me how she wore a pair of those sexy jeans that had a zipper at the bottom and a lacy top the day she met Mick Jagger.  Her hair freshly cut.  That was the first tour she went on.  They became fast friends for life. She tells me that rock’n’roll keeps her young.  But if you sleep with anyone they never invite you back.  She’s glad she never crossed that line.  Sometimes frigid is a good thing.

It’s a beautiful thing, a haircut.  The best thing in the world to transition from one stage of life to the other.

Another thing she told me is that as a Scorpio I am a woman of power.  The seat of our power is in the genitals… therefore scorpios make great prostitutes (and here I choked because I thought she was gonna say lovers!) but she discourages that direction.  I am told that I will re-invent myself every few years (as I have been known to do to date).  I have the nature of the phoenix – rising out of ashes as good as new with the power to do great things and soar above it all.  She switched from astrology to numerology and made my head spin but there it was, the number 8.  Near the number of God (didn’t know before that God had a number).  But my allergy to numbers prevailed and the details left my brain as soon as it touched down.

At the end of it all I looked at her hair and I looked at mine and decided, there are worse things than being a woman alone.  We could do worse!

 

TEST: How Responsible Are You?

So… with my pet peeve on responsibility out there, I went in search of ways to test yourself.  Click here to try it out for yourself!

My result was 41.5 out of 44 and was explained as follows:

“Your score puts you in the highest category of social reasoning. You will see ethical and moral values as important to the needs of society and will appeal to basic rights or values. You might say “Honesty is a standard which everyone should accept” or “Life is sacred.”

Conformity to ethical norms is important to you, in terms of a responsibility, obligation or commitment for all individuals, although you may be willing to consider exceptions in some particular circumstances. You are likely to suggest that with entitlement or privilege comes responsibility.

You will appeal to considerations of responsible character or integrity in others, preferring a consistent or standard practice of behaviour in order to avoid damage to social institutions such as the legal system.

However, you will want to see an adjusted case-by-case application of standards for the sake of fairness to all people. Lastly, you are very likely to appeal to standards of individual or personal conscience, as well as of honour, dignity or integrity.”

 

The Age of Irresponsibility

I regret to announce to those who have missed the calls of the harbingers, the omens written in their day-to-day lives, and the signs in every newspaper in the known world – The Age of Irresponsibility is upon us.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been irresponsible people in every era of human existence.  They have been called by many labels – lazy, entitled, promiscuous, spoiled, dead-beat, and many other names that separate them from the norm of responsibility.  But in the subjective age in which we now live, we have been invited to consider and have heartily accepted and gone overboard with the consideration for the “other side”.  Psychology has pointed to reasons in nature and nurture that lead to characters developing along irresponsible lines.  Because we now have reasons we find ourselves excusing the behaviours.  And with the words “lazy”, “dead-beat”, “irresponsible” and “promiscuous” being classified under the headling “judgmental”, the responsible among us avoid calling it like it is.  What follows is that those with latent tendencies toward – yup I’m calling it – laziness and disrespect see the stigma removed and sign up to the growing list of the irresponsible at a rate of thousands per minute.

But what, I hear you wonder, is irresponsibility?  What does it mean?  What does it look like?

Bushy’s definition is that irresponsibility is a failure to fulfill one’s obligations and to keep one’s word.  It comes from a selfish, unnecessary and reckless disregard for the needs and the feelings of others.

I hate to draw a sexist example, but guys you make it so damn easy.  Ladies.  When was the last time a guy in your life said to you “I’ll be there at 8” and showed up at 8:30 without a phone call?  Or how about the last time a guy in your life said “I’ll be there at 8” and didn’t show up at all?  If you say nothing, isn’t it remarkable how your next conversation (and there are questions in my mind as to whether or not there SHOULD be a next conversation) goes without any apology for your lost 30 minutes or your ruined evening?  That, my love, is irresponsibility.

Let’s take another example.  We all have at least one ditzy woman in our lives who consistently does stupid things.  For example, sleep around.  Yes… I could have used a guy example here as well but some things are just TOO easy.  She lets herself intervene over and over and over as the rebound (“But he said he was over it!”) or she may have a tendency to go for the ones who are already quite married to someone else (“But his wife is SUCH a b****).  What refrain do you hear from her as a reason (**cough-EXCUSE-cough***) for her behaviour?  “But Busy you don’t understand.  I LOVE him!”, “I can’t help it if his wife is a bitter old woman”, and most common and bloody irritating “You can’t control who you fall in love with.”

Well I’ma call it.  That is BULLSHIT.

Everyone has choices to make every single day of our lives.  We choose what we eat.  We choose how much we exercise.  We choose when to go to the bathroom.  We choose whether or not to pick up the phone and cancel an appointment we cannot make.  We choose whether or not we spread our legs to this man or that.  We choose whether we will go out and find a job.  We choose whether or not we complete our studies.  We choose what behaviours and what people we expose ourselves to and what feelings we allow ourselves to dwell on.  We choose where we are every minute of every day.

If I were to make a practice of irresponsibility my world would fall apart.  My staff would suffer, my family would suffer, I would lose the roof over my head and be dependent on someone else for the food on my plate.  How is it that others escape this fate?  Have I signed up for that much more responsibility?  Is there something wrong with me?  Maybe I should try this out and see if life is easier that way.

This is the thinking that has led to irresponsibility being the new normal.

I worry for the next generation.  Irresponsibility doesn’t travel like an STD, passing on from mother to child and with exchange of body fluids.  This bad boy catches like the flu.

Have you been immunized?

Classic irresponsible statements:

“She told me she was ok with just sex.”  She’s a woman dumbass.  And you knew this.

“I can’t help it!”  Then who the hell can?

“You don’t understand!  Marriage is very complicated.”  I didn’t tell you to sign up for it.  But you did.  So deal.

“I fell asleep.”  Don’t wake up next time.

“Ohhh… you were waiting?”  Oh yeah… but never again.

“But his wife treats him so badly!”  I’m sure she knows why.

“She’s just a friend.”  Uh huh…

“You just want to control me.”  Actually no… I don’t trust you to control yourself.

“You just don’t understand what I’m going through.”  You mean what you’re PUTTING YOURSELF through?  No.  You’re right.  I do not understand.

And my favourite.  One line that, if said too many times for the same offense makes the hearer want to carve the words in stone and shove them down an irresponsible throat.

“I’m sorry.”

So am I, luv.  So am I.

Flashback III: For My Daughter

This is part of an old and complicated story… a place in my life that I was taken from with some amount of pain.  Maybe one day I will tell it… but for now this is the message I had for a daughter who was once and briefly mine.

Even though I had no part in bringing you to life and didn’t give your little body a home, I am the woman honoured with shepherding you at this moment, the end of your girlhood. I see all my habits and flaws in the stark light of Truth. I see how much of me needs to change, and how much has changed by Grace, for me to be worthy of being your example.

I also see the innocence, the unbruised hope, and pray that it lasts throughout your life. I watch you battle next to me as I battle through the challenges of my life, practicing for your own womanhood in the shadow of my example. I see you grieve for me as I grieve, learn as I learn, and grow as I grow. And sometimes more.

I long for you to love yourself as I love you. You are a unique being created to reflect a beautiful part of God’s image that no other being has ever done or ever will do. So BIG and AMAZING is our God that each person, a prism to reflect a part of the image of who He is, is unique. Your piece, your unique image, is one that cannot be replicated and is beautiful and strong.

He must have been smiling designing this woman on His heavenly drawing table, delighted in her intricate mind and the mystery of each cell of her body. Late into the night I imagine that he drew, as the angels sang in the background. He put you in a welcoming womb and laughed with you as you first smiled up at your adoring mother as she counted ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes in awe. He grieved with you and sheltered you under his feathers when she was untimely ripped from your tender life. He sheltered you from blows and led you to a place of safety over very rocky ground and slippery slopes. Of COURSE He loves you!

You are special and dear to him and to me.

And so my dear one, never let any man, woman, pastor, friend, teacher or enemy change the way you look at you. YOU are beautiful for a reason – He decided you should be and delighted when He made it so. YOU are strong for a reason – He decided you would be and He made you so. YOU have your own mind for a reason – He wanted you to know Him for yourself and He made it so. YOU are right here right now for a reason – His plan for you is perfect and He will make it so.

Do you baby. Only you can do you. He made it so. And so, in thanks to Him, do you WELL.

To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:

THE YAG (Mysterious Happening #2)

It was the same weekend as Mysterious Happening #1 and it was a miracle explosion.

In 2011 two young women from my church began a discussion about starting a Bible study for young adults.  They met a few times, talked around the subject with the pastor, but it didn’t quite take off.  In November they invited myself and another young woman into the conversation and now there were four of us.  We looked up a Bible study, selected one on relationships, met once, and still it didn’t take.  A little bit disheartened, we prepared to launch in January.  In our preparation we ordered books, selected a venue, worked out a menu, and launched the CIBC Young Adults page (Now called The YAG) on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were official!  Now to see if there were others out there like us who were wanting to study as well.

The Sunday before our first meeting we met with our pastor and prayed for guidance, for attendance, for the Spirit to prepare our group.  We expected five people at our launch of RELATE.

Twenty-five showed up.  The seats in my living room were all taken and some of us took the floor.  All our books were gone at meeting one and we made another order.  At meeting two there were even more people!  It was called AFTERGLOW, and we were blessed with music from Jordan and Heather Richmond, and there were no less than 40 people there.  And now we need to order MORE books!  Almost immediately it was too big for my living room and a couple from our church kindly donated the use of a warehouse that they have refurbished – wooden flooring, air conditioning, plush rugs and cozy seating.  Our Friday night (to Saturday morning) meetings continued to grow as we got deeper into the makings of good relationships.  It is the Happiest Happy Hour I’ve ever been to!

Our study is one of the Threads collection, called RELATE.  In our first meeting a visiting theologian gave us an introduction to the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was quoted in our study and was, coincidentally (nah no coincidence) the subject of his own thesis.  The first topic was Understanding Relationships.  We came to understand there is one fundamental need every human being has in their relationships – either Security or Significance.  With this foundation we came to understand more about ourselves.  We discussed the revolutionary idea that relationships are NOT ABOUT US but about the purpose we were created to fulfill.  The six “one anothers” of the New Testament were broken out for our exploration and the relationship armour of Colossians 3:12-14 were also chewed on for a good amount of time.  We are now half-way into session two – Developing Relationships, what our stumbling blocks are and what we should aim to bring to the table.

“Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to the both of us.”  ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

In the short space of a month this has snowballed into much more than a Bible study.  It has become a whole new community, a social circle, a support system.  Young adults are coming from other churches – Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Church of God, no church at all – we are coming from all walks of life – teachers, civil servants, lawyers, students, unemployment – and we find belonging with each other.  Friendships are being formed, relationships are being rescued, issues are coming to a head, characters are being strengthened, and each of us is making the journey of the others rich in love and support, companionship and prayer.  It seems as though 2011 was a dark year for many of us – breakups, divorces, affairs, family drama, unplanned pregnancies, unemployment, alcohol-soaked violence, baby mama/daddy drama – things that make my haircuts seem trivial.  Our members have each walked out of their own individual pool of pain and into the arms of the others.  Our Facebook group has over 100 members – for an island of 50,000 people that’s pretty revolutionary!  In the space of a month our lives have begun to change – we have had a Bitterness Burning, a Baptism, a Birthday party, Valentines Cupcakes, we watched Courageous together and we have members calling in from other parts of the world on Skype.  It is our deep-seated conviction that no one should go without encouragement.  And now we are launching our missions!  We are working with our church to host Nicole Mullens in two free concerts at the end of March and we are planning our first international mission as I type!  Perhaps it will involve cupcakes… who knows?

THE YAG - heart in hand

None of us could have predicted how far this would go.  None of us could have planned for any of the growth we have made!  The mystery is in the peace that comes with being together.  Now we long for Friday night and call out encouragement and help and meet with one another throughout the week.  We are so blessed to have each other and to rest in our Father’s arms together.  And as we are salt and light during our work weeks and in our communities, we take comfort in knowing there is salt and there is light just a street over, around the corner, at another desk, in another place, and that that person is also keeping us in prayer before our God.  At the beginning and in the middle and at the end of the day it’s all about Him.

And then I had this dream… handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.  It could happen!  In fact, before the end of the year I am sure it will.

Another time I will describe my own path to YAG and through YAG and how it has changed everything.  If you are interested in sitting in on one of our sessions, or even joining our group study, please drop a comment and I will send you material and arrange your link into our meetings.  We are setting the world on fire!  I invite you to be the spark that lights the flame where you are.

Walter – (Mysterious Happening #1) – A tale of YAG

 Family secrets and secret family – all revealed in God’s time!

OK so this didn’t begin as a YAG story.  It began on the same day of the YAG and was one of the two mysterious happenings that changed the faces of my present and of my future.  I invite you to pray for me that it be a change that stays with me forever.

This first mysterious happening began with an invitation.  Our church, the Cayman Islands Baptist Church, hosted over 30 pastors from Honduras and Cuba for a weekend of continued education and training.  It was a retreat and the visitors were hosted by church families and went to full days of training by American and Caymanian pastors (translated to Spanish) and the pastor of our sister church in Cuba (translated into English).  Two of these gentlemen were hosted by my parents and I shared a few memorable meals with them, sharpening iron with iron and refining my own language skills.  In church on Sunday the whole contingent treated us to a heavy baritone rendition of a well-known praise song in spanish and Pastor Randy introduced a few of them by name.

Enter Walter.  Or should I say, THE WalterS.  Walter Bush Snr. and Walter Bush Jr. from the First Baptist Church of La Ceiba.  The name Bush hit me like a cold water drop from an a/c unit and I turned with eyes lit up to my mom.  She was smiling and wiggled her eyebrows at me.  After service ended and our church family gathered together to catch up I walked up to a YAGgie girlfriend of mine speaking to two vaguely familiar men.  As I came into earshot I heard one of them say to her “Our roots are in Cayman but we wouldn’t have a clue as to where to look to find our family here”.  On approach the older man lifted eyes identical to mine – a rare mix of hazel and green – and I said “You must be the Bushes”.

Thus began an animated conversation with my cousins.  Mr. Walter Snr. is the image of what I have always imagined my grandfather to look like.  My mom confirmed it to me – his height, his eyes, his aura of calm is much like her father.  Walter Jr. and I spoke at length of what it is to be a Bush – the satellite ears, our unique battle as a family with compulsiveness, the addictions that our compulsiveness can drag us into, our family attachment to mutton peppers, our family recipe for our famous pepper sauce (IMAGINE!), the power of our personalities.  We were invited to visit them and exchanged email addresses and parted ways with smiles deep down in our hearts.

And now the Walters have called… on the day that I dream of handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.