Love at 30,000 feet – The Brick House

It was at about 30,000 feet that I remembered how to love myself.  I had every intention of falling asleep – travel anxiety had kept me awake the night before and powered my frenzied preparation for the flight.  Settling into my delayed American Airlines flight, I reached for my iPhone, put her in flight mode, put my earphones in and willed myself to shut out the world and sleep.

What happened next was very different from sleep.

But now, as I’m telling the story, I realize that it began a few days before on a different flight to a different city.  Travel with me to Miami for a minute.

The Prophet?  Or not?

He was the craziest looking man in all of Miami International – a tall and slim black guy in his 50s pimp-dressed from head to toe.  The man I would name Mack Daddy (in my head) was in a black suit with white pin strips widely spaced.  The jacket fit his shoulders well and fell down below his knees and a black fedora sat over the smiling brown face.  He had just swept the tail of his coat aside to sit down with a magnificent gesture when our flight was called.

I looked at the man just as his curious eyes swept the line I was in and landed lightly on me before skipping forward.  Dear God please don’t make him sit by me!  Memories of a charlatan in a pentecostal church in the trouser part of this man’s suit had my shoulders tensed right up.

American Airlines boarded us all in their customary disorganized fashion and my neighbors were revealed to me one by one until there was only one seat left – the middle to my window seat.  Lo and behold who should next appear but Mack Daddy himself!  He politely spoke to the aisle-neighbor and she let him pass to his seat.  Sitting down he thanked her with a pleasant smile.

Ahhhhhhhhhh $h1+!

The flight takes off and now I’m curious.  Who on earth could think this outfit up?  As it turns out my neighbor to New York was open to share.  First he spoke to the aisle-lady again about the book she was reading.  At this stage I noticed not one but TWO worn bibles on his lap.  Yup – Prophet-man’s brother for sure.

I was glorying in my smug conclusion (Yup – I called it.  Uh huh I was right.) and thanking the hostess for my water when Mack Daddy turned to me.  By this time I had narrowed down his origin to one of two islands (later turned out I’d hit that one good too), figured he was a travelling charlatan, and was waiting for the preaching to begin.  Instead he one-upped me and pointed to my accent asking if I was a Trini.

“HELLLL NO!” came out before I could temper it.

And Mack Daddy laughed.  I caught myself in my own righteousness and laughed out loud too.  This flight was getting interesting.

Mr. J, I soon learned, was a DJ and entertainer by trade and an islander like myself.  He had found Jesus in his adult life after having spent years in the fascinating business of being a friend to famous people.  He was now using his talents to bring people to Christ.  He had managed and DJ’d at a few clubs in Miami, Puerto Rico and in England and had been quite a woman-tamer in his time.  The Jesus-man told me with a mix of wistfulness and shame the stories of his time before Christ took him on.  “I was not a good guy, Miss Bush.  Believe me.  There was one time I was rotating 18 women.  And I walked into the club with Joy and Sue wasn’t pleased and I had to say to Sue ‘Tonight I am with Joy.  Tomorrow will be your night.’  And she had to be fine with that.”  Turns out Bob Marley was much worse – he had 40 something kids.  But there was a guitarist in one of the other bands that was the worst of all.  Something like 80 women at a time.  INSANE.  If Mr. J hadn’t been talking like a spectator looking from the outside into his memories I admit I would have been a bit freaked out.  But the story was good and he continued to tell me of the fascinating club business in his heyday.

We then began to speak of islands, hurricanes, volcanoes, churches (only briefly) and family.  His heart was so open I walked right in and received the hug of his conversation.  20 minutes into the flight I loved the man and the rest of the passengers were about ready to throw us out midair   Our conversation was so animated and his laughter so unbridled that I’m sure the pilot could hear!

So Mr. J pulled out his phone to show me his gorgeous daughters.  My jaw dropped as he moved from family into photos of himself, his work and his friends.  He wasn’t kidding at all!  He showed me photos full of bell bottoms, guitars, Afros and marijuana smoke with the faces of Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Rick James (who was actually a pretty good looking kid!!) James Brown, Little Richard, and Bob Marley.  There were faces I recognized and others I didn’t and for those Mr. J would sing a line in a song that I would immediately know.  “Remember this one?  She’s a Brick….” (and I’d join in) “HOUSE!”  He told me of the Brick House competitions they used to have.  He was like “you think you would win a Brick House Competition Ms. Bush?”  FUNNY GUY.  I nigh split myself in half at that one.

The neighboring passengers would pretend not to be annoyed and turn their earphone volume up.  I was totally delighted!  His ex wife, his daughters, his most recent gospel concert, flashed past until we got to a photo in Puerto Rico with a young Mr. J in a white suit shaped just like the one he was wearing but with more bell in the leg.  He called it looking like a Mack.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud – I had been calling Mack Daddy from the time I laid eyes on the man!

It was only a matter of time before the music changed.  We were soon singing old Jamaican 70s songs and trying to figure out by combining our memories the words to the Pluto Shervington song Dat.  I could just feel the tolerant Americans around us bristling inside about those effing Jamaicans (Let JA take the blame!  We’re Small-Island people, thank you.  And not Trinidadians either.)  My new friend and I didn’t care.

When I said goodbye to Mr. J in New York I was genuinely sad to part with him.  The professional Mack that he was, he seemed to take it more like a normal thing as he cordially wished me safe travels.

In a few minutes all that was left of him was the song in my head.

A Brain-Blush

Attention Readers!!
BUSHLETTE HAS MADE A VERY IMPORTANT DECISION!!!

I don’t think I ever want to get married!

Image

I might be able to attribute this decision to “daddy issues”, but I think I will end up as one of those women who, at age 48(24 years from now), has been with the same man for 8 to 12 years, but won’t ever get married. I’ll call him my “partner” because after being in an 8 to 12 year relationship, “boyfriend” will sound too juvenile. Because I will refer to him this way, people will think I’m a lesbian, which he and I will always take in good humor as we spend our nights drinking dry wine from the east of Bolivia and staring sideways at abstract paintings.

I will wear long flowy skirts with delicately embellished flips flops that I will acquire on my vacation to a quaint, untouched Caribbean island. My scarves won’t match my outfits, and I will learn how to sew. As of now, I can’t knit, but I will try to learn in my spare time (when I’m 48). I will knit hideous scarves and sweaters for my family and closest friends. As ugly as they will be, these tokens of love will be appreciated because of how much they love me. I will have no idea that my knitting is horrendous…but those are the kinds of friends and family members I will be lucky enough to have.

Hummus will be one of my closest allies! I will eat a modest diet of completely healthy foods that are good for me but taste like cardboard…not because I should, but because I’ll like them! Okay…maybe I won’t like all of them, but most of them! I will like most of them!

I look forward to adding to this list! These thoughts were recently extracted from the tiny part of me that generates the most ridiculous, and most honest ideas that make my brain blush.

What makes your brain blush? 😉

xo
Bushlette

Two Values Where Love Blossoms

I have always been astounded by the power friends have to bring hurt.  Friends are people you trust to have access to your feelings, your thoughts, your information, on good faith and with love.  They are people you share yourself with, that you let yourself be known to, vulnerable to, and they have an amazing power in their hands.  And failing their consciousness around their own power, with some careless handling, this power can truly destroy.

Friendship has been a very strong theme on this blog.  There have been many hurts, many vents, many priceless moments, and many lessons learned over the course of the past (almost) year.  I have described the dangers of weak girls as friends, the impossibility of friendship with the man whore, the power of girlfriends, the need to be touched and comforted that is experienced by single women,  the honoured place of the platonic husband, the desire for someone to be nice to in every one of us.  This blog has been dedicated to everything BUT romance, but even in this dedication the need for togetherness is recognized as absolutely vital.

In recent days I had a challenging experience with more than one friend.  I use the term friend still because I am not sure yet what to do about any of it.  Forgiveness is in order… I acknowledge it makes no sense to hold on to hurt.  But is reconciliation?  Does it make any sense to hold on to people who hurt?  I realize that in each case my friend and I see friendship from very different vantage points.  I realize that we have two different sets of values.  And I realize that values in friendship are important.

In chewing on my environment I have learned a few things about friendship.  Two main values in particular jump out that are absolutely key.

1. The Values of the Friend

What is a friend?  In thinking this through and determining whether my friend is truly a friend I have come to understand that what is inside a person is what the person is.  I know this sounds simple.  And I know it sounds airy fairy as well.  But hear me out.  What is inside the person is what the person is.  A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character.  Their character comes from the actions that they have practiced into habit and second nature.  The actions they have practiced into second nature and habit have come from decisions they have made to do this instead of that, go here instead of there, say this at this time and not say that at the next moment.  These decisions have been made from their values.  In what the person decides to be the thing they should do, “SHOULD” itself is defined by their values.

A person’s character is a dynamic thing yes.  But it is complete.  In this moment they are exactly what they are.  No more no less.  Their past is not here anymore.  Their potential hasn’t yet come into being.  Only what they are today is present with you.  What they value today is all that is.  Sure, they may have the necessary raw material to grow in a certain direction… but will they choose to?  Yes, they may have all the potential in the world… but what is potential other than a belief of what could be?  It certainly is not what is.  Sure, I accept that they could grow.  But they have not yet grown, not at this moment, anywhere beyond where they are.  And waiting for a person to grow and come around to a place of being where you feel you can have a relationship with them that is mutually fulfilling can turn into throwing years of time away, gambling with your most precious possession of life itself, and casting your pearls before swine.

Love Blossoms

2.  Alignment of Values is the definition of trust

Another thing I learned came out of a conversation with one of my brothers.  He said something that has resounded within me for hours, bouncing and echoing through the hallways and channels of my brain and my veins.  It came from something he had read recently on Trust.  The author of whatever it was put it to their readers that trust is what is present when values are the same.

Think about it before I go any further.  Chew on the phrase a little while.  Trust is what is present when values are the same. 

It isn’t some special ingredient or result at the end of a formula.  It isn’t something manufactured, packaged in plastic, and sold from the shelves to supermarket shoppers.  It doesn’t come from listening to self-help gurus and conjuring spells from witch doctors.  It isn’t the immediate result of an “I Do” or an “I swear”.  It only shows up where values are shared.

Let’s go back to number 1.  If it is true that “What is inside the person is what the person is.” And if  “A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character,”  which is at the very foundation “determined by their values.”  Then the alignment of values, the sameness of foundation, is where trust exists.

Taking an example, there are two people who meet for the first time.  They are put in the same place to work on the same project together as a team.  The people are very different – one is tall the other short, one is a man the other a woman, one is from Africa the other from Asia.  But let us say that both have at the core of their being a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in their work.  How likely is it that they will be honest with eachother, appreciating the honesty in the other?  How likely is it that they will not be offended by eachother’s directness?  How likely is it that they will trust eachother more and more as they learn that they both take pride in their work and are dedicated to working diligently for it to happen?  At the end of this project how do you see their trust relationship looking?

Take another pair.  They are both men, both American, same height, same home town, speak the same language, and they shop at the same store.  But say one has a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in his work.  And the other has a value system based on creative diplomacy, expedience, politeness, and pride in his paycheck.  How likely is it that directness will butt heads with politeness?  How about expedience and diligence?  Honesty and creative diplomacy?  How well will pride in ones work fit in with pride in ones paycheck?  Can you see how this might be a recipe for disaster?

Out of the values of a person springs the seed of who they are and what they do.  Out of shared values sprouts trust.  Out of trust grows friendship.  And out of friendship blossoms love.

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:

Flashback II: Julius

At the time he was little more than a pup.  But even then Julius was a gift to a lonely day.  This, my dear Reader, is Flashback number 2.

The alarm clock went off and Julius went on standby. Stood up stock straight and still, his eyes followed my hand to the bedside table half-hidden beneath shaggy doggy brows. Snooze – ten minutes. He watched me roll over and slid back down to a crouch, resting his chin between his paws.

Ten minutes of gentle breathing FLEW by. As usual. Off it went again and Julius was back on standby. Attention! His head just below bed level. I looked the little beast in the face with his little pink tong peeking past his teeth as he panted quietly.

OK… up we go. As the feet swung over the side, Julius jumped up in celebration, tail wagging and a flurry of kisses on his hind legs. Front paws pausing in the air before bouncing off the side of the bed.

She’s up! She’s up! Come… lets get moving. He runs to the door and runs back, all excited about the walk that is sure to follow.

It’ is an honour and a privilege to have someone rejoice in the fact that you got out of bed this morning.

I imagine the angels tugging you out of sleep. OK… she’s drifting back… let the alarm go off. Ok… 10 minutes snooze? No problem. Hold the ceiling fan up… beat off that disaster. Keep the tree outside the window standing straight… another danger averted. The car that just passed the front gate… keep them headed straight and safe. Just can’t be too late – she has a full day of God’s work to do. Counting down again… 10, 9, 8… 3,2,1. UP PIECES UP. TIME TO GET UP. Legs swing over to meet Julius and there they are… trumpets sounding silently around me with the confetti – a job well done. Kept alive through a night’s sleep. How many didn’t make it this morning?

Thank you Father for getting me up, keeping me safe, providing food and shelter, and giving me a list of things to do today. And thank you Father, most of all…
for Julius.

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

BITTERNESS BURNING

This week I was given the opportunity to share with someone as she slayed her bitterness.  We had a Bitterness Burning. 

My girlfriend had a wake-up call in her life to the fact that she was harboring hurt and “drinking the poison expecting the other person to die”.  Truth is, many of us have been bitter.  I raise my hand – I know what bitter tastes like.  It’s been a while but I am not immune.  Many of us are still in the White Witch’s bitterly frozen Narnia with no idea how to get out.  But Bitterness is not a closed-border state!  There is a way out!

THE BITTERNESS BURNING

Write every emotion down.  Write like a victim.  Write like an accuser.  Write like an executioner.  Write every hurt and harm, every angry thought.  Let there be nothing left in you to wring out.  This took me several days and several sheets of paper to vomit out all my anger, hurt and bitterness into black ink on white paper. 

Let the amount you have written in itself be a wake-up call for you.  I remember thinking Oh My Goodness, where did all these words come from?  I could just visualize the space that they left behind inside me waiting to be filled with something different.  What a huge amount of space these words must have filled inside!

Then burn it.

Now my girlfriend and I are quite creative people.  We see the world in colour and, although I hate to use the word, drama.  Her bitterness took on the largeness of her personality and it took some ceremony to get the deed done.  She invited a few of us girlfriends over to dinner, and after the lovely meal we prayed for her future of bitter-free living in a circle of friends outside on the grass on her lawn.  Then we made that baby burn.  As the paper curled and blackened we lit hand sparklers and twirled like fairies, using them in turn to light roman candles and even bigger fireworks.  The loud booms and bright colours lit up the sky!  A real celebration!  It was beautiful.  No one got hurt (and yes, we are all amazed – these women and gunpowder and no accidents). I’m sure the neighbours thought we’d lost our minds in the middle of a normal week in February with dew on the grass and us out there with fireworks!  But one thing was missing.

BITTERNESS.

He didn’t even show up.  She had a bitter-free night.

Of course this is just the beginning.  If you wake up the next day and do exactly what you’d done the day before nothing will change.  Bitterness, like every other bad habit, takes practice to remove.  It will slide right back in if you let it.  Habits are easy to form and hard to let go BUT we didn’t burn bitterness for nothing.  Oh no! 

It was a celebration of a new commitment, a new future and making space inside her soul for something different to happen.  My friend stepped out of her comfort zone and began to take responsibility for her future.  She enlisted the help of women she trusted to hold her accountable and help her create that future.  Today I am sure my friend, as I did, woke up with a natural tendency to slip into bad habits.  But she has a lovely memory to help her in her commitment to fill the hole left behind by those words now released with something new – something beautiful.  The love of her God, the love of her family, and the support of her friends will envelop her in her new journey.  She will busy her hands with new projects – baking is one of her many talents and she enjoys it so much.  With her God, her little family and her friends surrounding her with love, she is committing herself to a journey that will lead to a destination that bares absolutely no resemblance to Bitterness.

I. LOVE. MY. MEN.

Today my men are on my mind.  How much I love them and how grateful I am for them.  The Daddy who worked 18-hour days to fill my lunchbox, who laboured side by side with my powerful and gracious mother to mold and correct and scold and protect me.  My two brothers – one by blood and two in love.  The men who have come alongside me, offered humour, power, hugs, and friendship as pure as the driven snow.   The mentors who have given me chances and helped me grow in my career and in my life.

My Godfather let me out in traffic this morning.  He didn’t see that it was me but the loving power of his presence hung in the air of the morning.  Another friend squeezed my hand and winked at me with a shared understanding as I walked to the breakfast table.  Text messages, hugs, words of encouragement, scoldings, and advice from the men that are in my life have been little building blocks of a supporting fortress of testosterone and muscle that only a man can create.  And I am grateful.

I am convinced that every little girl should have the love of good men.  Every little girl needs a good father to worship and to set her standards by and her expectations high for her life.  Every little girl needs a brother to fight with, to tell on, to fight to the death for, and to be protected and loved by.  Every little girl needs to be taught the dangers of relationships with men but to be balanced with the knowledge of how to dig through the negatives and get to the core of the amazing people walking around in male form.  She should be encouraged to remember that there are pillars of masculinity that reflect a part of God’s own image even as there are those who are evil.

This weekend we buried one such pillar.  An uncle I visited awhile back in this blog.  This morning I pause in his honour and in honour of the others like him who have been the hand of God in the lives of the little girls and big girls around them.