Memories From the Balcony- Finding the Button

I turned 50 this year . . .
It’s not been the coolest thing ever. I’ve had to face some new medical challenges.
I’m on medication. I have to watch what I eat now.
I have to take my blood pressure.
I have to monitor my exercise and watch my stress levels which is funny to me because I have lived with stress and/or anxiety throughout my entire life. Only, age came along and pulled a trick or two. I’m not as young as I used to be.
I have to pay attention is what my doctor told me.
“You’re 50 now . . .”

To some people, age is just a number. To others, the idea of a person turning 50 is old.
At one point, I can remember living in my young life with no concept of time or future.
To me, the idea of being 50 years old was unthinkable.
And here I am at 50.
I find myself looking back with ideas and questions. Here I am, looking back with a taste of nostalgia. 
I had a kid at work tell me, “You look good for your age,” which I know was intended to be a compliment.
But hey, if I’m being honest, the first thing I thought to say was, “Well you can kiss my ass!”
“No, really.” He said, “I didn’t think you were that old.” With the emphasis on that as if I should be thinking about an old folks home or assisted living.

In my last series, I asked a famous question, “What the hell was I thinking?”
Along the way, I came to the conclusion that deep down, no matter how many times I said “I don’t know” to this question, the truth is that we always know what we’re thinking.
The next question is why?

Why do we have insecurities? Why are we afraid to be ourselves?
Why is it that being different from the mob or being unique or living as an individual is so threatening?

I can think of countless times when I wanted to do my own thing yet I never dared to brave the edges of living my life alone.
There have been countless times when I saw something wrong or I disagreed with the masses yet I either sat quietly or I went along for the ride.

I can remember a time when I had a note sent home from school.
The reason for the note was that I was part of a small group that was bullying someone.
And it wasn’t me this time.
I wasn’t the one saying anything. I was there. I was laughing along. I didn’t do anything to stop it either.
This is why The Old Man told me I was in trouble.

You made the choice, he said
You back the wrong crowd, he told me.
If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas, he said.
Then he told me, I’ve seen your friends and that must be why you’re scratching your head all the time. 

Life is obviously better spent with a smile than a growl.
In fact, I’ve said this to you before.
I’ve told you that I don’t mind when an enemy growls at me.
This is what they’re supposed to do.
It’s when they smile at me; that’s when I know something’s coming in the mail.

There’s a poet by the name of Ella Wheeler Wilcox who once wrote:
Laugh and the world laughs with you.
Weep and you weep alone.
For the brave old Earth must borrow its mirth –
It has trouble enough of its own.

I can see how we take on the sins of the world.
I can say that aside from a great success story, much of the world loves to watch someone fall from grace.
I can say that I have sat in traffic simply because people want to see what happened on the side of the road.
So, the cars will bottleneck at the scene of an accident just to see or just to watch the spectacle of a crash – just as a sign of morbid curiosity or perhaps this is a means of comparison, as if to say, “At least I don’t have it as bad as that poor old son of a bitch!”

It’s a crazy world we live in yet who’s crazy these days?
Aside from everyone, I think that we’re all a special brand of crazy.
I say that we all have our things and that we all have our reasons that we act or do or say what we say.

I say that this is linked to details of our history, which has nothing to do with the concept of good or bad.
But why?

I can think of the times when I saw things that I disagreed with.
But I never dared to say anything.
I can think of a thousand different arguments which I see on a daily basis.
But why?
Why does it matter who I love or how I love?
Why is there a commercial hold on beauty?
Why is it that I have met some of the most breathtaking people in this world; only, no one told them the truth which is their beauty is both unstoppable and untestable.
The truth is their beauty is unique and individualized and that size or shape or hair color or the design of their eyes, the shape of their ears or anything else about them is absolutely perfect.

Why is it that we fall into trends?
Why do we care what famous people wear?
I have been thinking about the details of my past and the relevance of my memories.
But more, I have been thinking about one specific idea which is to thine own self be true.
I wonder how many people actually practice this principle in all of their affairs.
Do I?
Does anybody?

As people, I think of the way we connect with others as agreeable hostages and, together, we make our way through the world with an almost assumed idea that this will somehow make us right – or if nothing else, at least we’re not alone. 
I think about all of the times that I have stood with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. I think about the crowds and worries of my own personal lonesomeness.
But why?

What’s so bad about being alone?

I have spoken with people who sat in the SHU, or Special Housing Units, or they sat in solitary and had no other choice but to face themselves.
The thing about being alone in a cell is that you have nowhere to turn and, in fact, this can be the worst cellmate of them all.
I listened to a lecture from a man who was one of the last surviving inmates at Alcatraz.
He discussed his time in “The Hole” which was pitch black.
The reason that this place was called “the Hole” is because there was literally a hole in the floor which is what the inmates used as a toilet.
On his account, he discussed the ungodly smells.
He talked about the absence of light and the loss of space.
He talked about the details of the cell which was infested with roaches, bugs and rats,

This man would enter the cell and upon entry, he would drop to his knees.
He said that he would pull off a shirt button from his shirt.
Then he would place the button on top of his thumbnail as if he were flipping a coin.
He’d flipped the button into the air, wait for the button to fall and then he would scour across the ground on his hands and knees looking for the button.
He crawled through filth and all of the ungodly muck that was on the ground.
Once he found the button, he would repeat the process.
He said: They took my time and they took my space. They took light away from me but I know that I couldn’t let them take my mind away.

I think about this sometimes and while I only paraphrase to make the point, I also think about the poet Saul Williams who wrote: Stealing us was the smartest thing they ever did. Too bad they don’t teach the truth to their kids . . .

Of course, Williams meant this from a racial perspective and while I can never say that I understand what it means to go through the world with black skin – nor can I say that I understand what it’s like to live like him or look like him, I can also say that I have been stolen countless times.
I was stolen the first time I was bullied.
I was stolen the first time I believed when someone told me that I was no good.
I was robbed when I gave into the misdirection of faithless lies.
I was swindled when I listened to the cons from other people who looked to keep others down – just because – and just so that no one moves ahead of them in line or exceeds beyond their abilities. People like this looked to rob anyone of their spirit just so they don’t have to face the lack of their own.

I say we’ve all been robbed.
I say that we’ve all experienced a theft of services.
Sometimes, we pass the torch.
Sometimes, we keep these thefts alive.

For example, anytime someone has told you something to make you question your beauty or whenever someone told you something wrong or untrue or something that was projected from them or their life; or anytime a person has taken out their experience on you and you listened or you submitted or if you allowed these thoughts to burrow in your mind and become true – this is a theft.

Anytime someone puts you down, it’s a theft.
In some cases, when it comes to the agreed-upon hostages in our life or when a so-called friend or so-called loved one tells you something hurtful – this is a theft in process. 

But why?

Is this a question of good or bad?
Or, is the reason behind this more detailed? Or, maybe the answer is simple.
Maybe this is the bullied passing the torch as if to say: Well, if I had to suffer, everyone else around me will have to suffer too.

The way I see it is I have been stolen more times than I can count.
I have volunteered for some of these thefts too; in which case, I lost time and space. In other cases that became so dark, I lost the freedom of light. 

I guess my only tactic for survival comes from a practice used by one of the last surviving inmates at Alcatraz. 

I had to find my button.

I say this because we don’t have to be arrested to live an imprisoned life.
No, not at all.

We just have to keep our heads straight.

We have to realize that there will be times of loss.
We can accept the losses. We can understand the differences in our physical surroundings but when faced with solitary, we have to find a way to keep our heads.
Otherwise, it’s really easy to lose our minds. 
So, find your button . . .
Just don’t let yourself be robbed of the most valuable thing in this world:
And that’s you.
Trust me. You’re worth more than you’ll ever know!

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