Quote Challenge, Day 2 of 3: Coming out of the shadows.

Here is my humble attempt at day two of a challenge offered up by one of my favorite blog gurus, brandewijnwords. The task at hand is to share my favorite quotes for three consecutive days.

This has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. I have so many quotes swirling around my head right now. But this one is the first that came to mind, so I’m going with it. (You can visit @summoningmagic to see more of my favorites.)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…our playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
~ Marianne Williamson

This first time I read this, I realized I had done this my entire life: played small. There were several reasons why I chose to do this, the primary one being I desperately craved love and acceptance from those I loved…most who didn’t exactly know how to reciprocate. Regardless, it became very clear to me that being the center of attention was not unacceptable.

I never understood it, really. It was next to impossible for me to believe I had any redeeming qualities…precisely because those were not to be cultivated or celebrated. They were to be stifled.

So, for survival purposes, I stayed in the shadows. And it truly was to survive. For me, being rejected by the ones I love the most was and is my worst possible fate. Being the smartest or prettiest or anything that threatened anyone else was simply not an option.

So I played small.

This meant that I constantly attracted people who demanded the spotlight, and I gladly gave it to them.

I’m not sure when the shift happened, but I know this quote fueled it. I imagine being a trainer/coach also contributed. That was my first experience having someone look to me for guidance or want my permission to shine. It changed me. On a fundamental level, it changed me.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be a part of someone realizing their worth.

So I still gladly offer up the spotlight, but it’s no longer for acceptance. It’s for the joy of seeing someone shine from the inside out.

As for the ones who feel they need to steal the light from others, I think I understand it now. They are simply doing what they think will prevent their biggest fear- their worst possible fate- to be rejected by the ones they love the most.

Spotlight Stage Background

Advertisements

Quote challenge, Day 1 of 3: Worth the risk…every time.

I was chosen for this challenge by brandewijnwords FOREVER ago. I am honored that this talented, brilliant soul is interested in what words inspire me. Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@summoningmagic) knows how obsessed I am with quotes. All to say, here is my very belated response. I hope it fulfills my intention to inspire…or just make you feel.

I wrote these a couple of weeks ago, still grappling with the sting of what feels like a perpetual string of heartbreaks.

“There are two things that define us: the love we are willing to give and the risks we are willing to take.”   ~ Brooke Breazeale

“We are the sum total of those who have broken our heart and those who have made it feel whole.”        ~ Brooke Breazeale

I do feel like our greatest heartbreaks in life eventually change us, define us, for better or worse, depending on what we choose to do with the aftermath. It’s so easy to fall prey to bitterness or self-deprecation, letting them build an impenetrable fortress around our hearts until they callous.

I actually wish I could do this at times. I assure you, I’ve tried. I simply can’t. It’s a result of muscle memory, I suppose. When we experience it- the kind of love that makes us feel whole…the kind that changes us- it becomes impossible to settle for a life void of it. That’s been my experience, anyway.

So I take the risk, over and over, incapable of moderating what’s inside, begging to be released…refusing to succumb to the aftermath.

Okay, so the rules (which I’m not exactly following, as shocking as that is):

1. Thank the person that nominated you.- check

2. Write one quote each day for three consecutive days (3 quotes total)- will do my very best!

3. Explain why the quote is meaningful to you. – check

4. Nominate three bloggers each day to participate in the challenge- probably not

I will deviate a bit on #4…the unwavering ‘rule-breaker’ in me, I suppose.

  1. I shall pass this lil’ challenge along to our incurable dreamer (who very well might kill me for this). But swapping quotes is what we do, and she always finds the good ones. (okay, I usually have already found them, but we all will benefit from hearing her insight.) ;o)

Wait, you want me to fix breakfast for 54 chimps, 74 monkeys and a turtle?

I’ve been a bit consumed of late with an article that has proven to be more painful to write than expected. (see Your Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl). It’s pissing me off, actually, mainly because the truth that lies beneath is a bitter one.

All to say, I got sucked into re-reading my posts from my time in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s been interesting to revisit that fearless, free-spirited girl who was in her element…which was usually placing herself in situations completely out of her element.

She was full of life and passion, she felt loved and still believed she could change the world. I miss her, to be honest, and wish I could get her back.

But for now, tales of her adventures remain, and an adventure it was…

Fixin’ Breakfast: Dull Knives and Rusty French

I had no idea what to expect when they told me I would be helping out in the sanctuary, and I can’t say that I came away from my first day feeling excited about my second.

When I asked Christophe, who manages the staff, what time I should be there to prepare the chimps’ meals, he started listing off the hours…which pretty much spanned the entire day. I almost laughed but refrained and tried to explain that I was here to write grants and try to get money for the sanctuary.  He shook his head, looking just as confused as I was.

Herein lies the problem; I’ve lost a lot of the French I had learned in Paris. To complicate things further, Carmen, my supervisor, is Spanish. So I spend most of the day speaking Spanish, trying to remember French, and reading and researching in English.

I’m basically a linguistic hazard at this point.

With all the different languages flying around, trying to learn the very regimented procedures in the sanctuary is a bit of a disaster. We work mainly in the food prep room/kitchen area. The extent of my knowledge regarding kitchen utensils and food preparation is limited in English, so not exactly a category I mastered in French.

The animals (54 chimps, 74 monkeys, and a turtle) get fed three times a day, and each piece of fruit and vegetable (usually around 8-10 different types) has to be weighed and portioned out.

You can imagine the scenario: Christophe asks me (in French) to grab the bowl on the table filled with ‘choux’ (cabbage), cut it into 5 pieces and place each piece in the bowl corresponding to the specific animal or group of animals outlined on a piece of paper taped to the wall.

I laughed out loud and then went into a complete state of panic. Christophe was mildly patient, but my insecurities took over and I translated every encounter between him and the staff as, “Wow boys, we got a real gem this time; she can’t speak, follow directions or chop an ear of corn into 6 pieces with an extremely dull knife.

But, I wanted an adventure…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Simon, Luc & Mama Bea

Relay 020

Walk Home from Work

IMG_0990

Introductions: Meeting Kongo & His Crew

My first experience with the chimps was intimidating, to say the least. Despite the 6-meter electrical fence between us, when dozens of full-grown chimpanzees start dropping out of trees, jumping over bushes and hurling themselves toward you…I somehow suppressed the urge to scream and took a BIG step back.

They all stopped as close to the fence as they could get, looking me up and down for long enough to feel a bit awkward. And then the silence broke and the spectacle began: utter chaos ensued, all of them trying to solidify their position in the spotlight- beating their chests, stomping their feet, tackling each other…sheer mayhem.

But even with all this going on, I couldn’t help but notice his approach. Kongo slowly came over to sit directly in front of me with an undeniable sense of authority. The other chimps honored his arrival with screams of delight, each competing for the chance to be close to him and granted grooming privileges.

But Kongo brushed them all aside, his gaze fixated on the new visitor. He looked at me intensely, straight in the eyes, but more as a question rather than a threat. His presence was commanding to be sure, but comforting at the same time; his gentle demeanor and air of wisdom juxtaposed with his size and rank.

I was smitten. But did he like me? Did I exude whatever it was that one should in order to win the affections of an ape?

I began to walk slowly along the length of the fence. He immediately stood up, trailing behind me by a few steps until I stopped. He would catch up, taking his time, then turn to face me and sit down. I would walk, he would follow, I would stop, he would sit. This continued along the entire 5 acres of the fence. I took it as a sign…I think he likes me.

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting Kongo and the rest of these amazing souls.

IMG_7984

Mon amour, Kongo

IMG_1049

The boys…monkeying around.

Chimps.7.8 039

Namoya, the newest rescue, and her faithful protectors.

As long as we still have the right to bear arms…

“The most powerful nation on Earth. The most disruptive and the most disrupted. We don’t know how to be adults. We are confused children with big guns.” – Tom Being Tom

Tom Being Tom always has a way of saying what I can’t about a subject that enrages me to the point where I can’t see straight enough to type.

His post, Fueled by American Rage, is as eloquently written as it is poignant.

I’ll let him have the stage, but I will say this:

We have problems- horrific, unbridled American problems. And they are so rampant and seemingly insurmountable that we feel paralyzed. So we polarize…even more.

I can admittedly go there politically, but this goes way beyond politics. It’s how we function as a society, as communities, as families. I’ve become acutely aware of this after living in different countries, both developing and developed.

We are checked out, utterly distracted by trying to climb the ladder to have more. But more is never enough. So we work harder, climb higher…to get more. We aren’t present for our kids or parents or neighbors or friends.

I know it’s more complicated than that. Even if we want to be present, we are distracted by just trying to get by. Cost of living is virtually impossible for lower to mid-income families- healthcare, our student loan nightmare, housing costs…shit is just broken.

So yes, there are absolutely loving parents and healthy families and supportive communities out there. But I’ve also been on the receiving end. I’ve experienced a good dose of what fuels the anger of these kids. I don’t have the anger gene, not one I could direct outwardly, but I understand where it comes from…more than I’d like to.

Our kids feel isolated and sad. And they are angry.

I don’t have children. I am not a single parent or couple struggling to support their kids. I am not a teacher or coach or counselor who is overworked, underpaid and has little to no resources. And I can’t sit behind my computer and claim to have the solution.

But my god, how many more times does this have to happen before we stop prioritizing our guns over trying to understand why our kids are using them.

Let’s focus on the issue at hand, though: we need to preserve our right to bear arms; and make sure the industry thrives; and work ourselves into the ground so we can have more of them than our neighbors. We can’t be bothered with finding the time or resources necessary to take a closer look at why our kids are desperate enough to kill.

We are failing them and we are losing them.

We are confused, angry adults handing over loaded guns to confused, angry children…whom we’ve abandoned.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis shot and killed 10 people. Why? We don’t exactly know. But there were signs, blatant signs. We just weren’t paying attention…

I do want to offer this disclaimer. I am by no means an expert on the various factors contributing to gun-related deaths. But I did find this article in the NYT by Nicholas Kristof to be insightful, offering a well-rounded perspective from various angles…worth a read. How to reduce shootings

 

Texas School Shooting Victims that we lost Friday, May 18 at around 7:30am: 

Jared Black, age 17
Shana Fisher, age 16
Angelique Ramirez
Kyle McLeod, age 15
Sabika Sheikh, age 17
Christopher Stone, age 17
Christian “Riley” Garcia, age 15
Cynthia Tisdale, teacher
Kimberly Vaughan
Ann Perkins

72cde5b5-4ab8-4a95-a760-6f8a39c26dafcynthia

Gone Fishing

I vividly remember the first time we met. It was a bizarre exchange when juxtaposed with the way our friendship evolved.

You came up to my table and introduced yourself, said you noticed I was here every day, asked me what I did…

It was the first of many lengthy conversations, but this one didn’t end so well.  Somehow we landed on the subject of gorillas, then zoos. I, in my overly-opinionated, self-righteous fashion, blurted out that I thought zoos were prisons.

You snatched up the card you had given me, visibly irritated, said something to the effect of “we’re done here”, and walked off.  I didn’t fully understand what had just happened, but I felt terrible. I tried to apologize. You weren’t exactly receptive.

The next morning you walked over to my table and started listing off links I needed to look up. It wasn’t an ask, and you weren’t going anywhere until I did. You proceeded to explain all the projects your family had funded to improve the major zoo where you grew up. I acknowledged their contribution and apologized again. You seemed relatively satisfied and went back to your table.

The next day you walked in and came right over to me. Had I seen it? The huge gorilla painted on the wall next door? You were excited and adamant; I had to go right then and look at it. So I did, smiling as I walked out.

I was redeemed.

You were a talker, no question, but your stories were riveting- tales of celebrities, ambassadors, extravagant galas, exotic girlfriends, President Kennedy discussing the fate of our country at your kitchen table. You had lived a charmed life… but that was a long time ago.

We never went into details, really, but we both understood we were in similar places- everything had fallen apart and we were trying desperately to piece our lives back together. It seemed like you were, and you were determined to help me do the same.

You were always coming over with ideas- where I could publish, jobs I could pursue, people I should contact. I would ask how things were going, and you would always respond. “With me? Oh, everything’s fine…ya know, just pluggin’ along.”

The holidays were approaching and you knew I was struggling. You would check in every so often…”How ya holdin’ up, kiddo?”. “Fine”, I assured you, “…just pluggin’ along”.

Right before Christmas, you asked what my plans were. I avoided answering and assured you I’d be fine. You waited until I went to the bathroom and slipped an envelope under my computer on your way out. It was $100 bill with a message written on the envelope. “Just go do something fun, will ya?” By the time I saw it, you were nowhere to be found.

I still have the envelope.

Almost every time you walked by my table,  I would hear a single ‘doo-da-doo”. I wondered why you did that, but it always made me smile. Maybe that’s why: your way of telling me to keep my chin up.

The last conversation I remember having, you came over announcing that you’d just been paid. “Let’s go to the grocery store and stalk up. We can go right now if you have time”. “Absolutely not”, I replied. There was no way I would let that happen, regardless. But I also knew you weren’t in the position to do it.

But it wasn’t about the groceries, was it? You wanted to do something kind and you wanted a friend to spend time with. I denied you both. I could have just went to keep you company. But I didn’t. I was too busy ‘pluggin along’.  I thanked you several times, but no, I couldn’t possibly. You looked disappointed and left.

We didn’t interact much after that. I knew you weren’t doing well on some level. Every time I looked up, you were engaged in conversation with someone new. You weren’t reading as much, just talking. It bothered me. I’m not exactly sure why, but it did. It seemed exhausting for everyone involved. As if you were desperately trying to be heard, to convince everyone that your life wasn’t always like this…to be remembered.

But no one else seemed to be bothered by it. Because you were charming and intelligent, interesting and kind. And it was never just about you. You genuinely wanted to know all about the person you were talking to. You asked questions and listened attentively. You gave advice, and without fail, I would hear, “Good for you” from across the room.

You truly just wanted everyone to feel good. You wanted to connect and encourage and lift everyone up. And you did.

You didn’t show up Monday or Tuesday. By Friday, we started to worry. We knew you had to move out of your place. Were you just in the thick of moving? The following week we sent you an email. You didn’t respond. Nobody had your number.

‘J’ came over to me this week and asked if I’d ever heard back. He handed me the card you sent.

“Gone Fishing”

You were clearly saying goodbye, but it didn’t seem like that goodbye. I emailed you again.

But you didn’t get it. You were already gone

I’ve moved to a different spot. One where I can’t see your chair. The one that remains empty. Except now, it’s not empty because you decided to move. It’s empty because you’re dead.

And one thing has become painfully clear: your presence always filled the room.

Now, so does your absence.

—-

April 25

Look at you, just up and disappearing on us! I would be mad at you if I wasn’t so concerned.

I hope you found a new place you love. I hope you feel loved, because you are…and very missed.
Big hug and warmest wishes,

Brooke

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 1.00.14 PM

A Tribute to Sevilla, Spain & Mi Gente

If Paris was the intense, elegant, somewhat intimidating sister, Sevilla was her charming, beautiful sibling. But when Spring came, they both transformed. Paris into a seductive dream of warm, playful decadence, and Sevilla into an exotic fantasy of colors, music and the intoxicating smell of orange blossoms.

In the thick of writing an academic article about child marriage in Pakistan…so revisiting one of my favorite places in the world, my second home, was a welcomed reprieve.

Today is the last day of La Feria, the spring festival that embodies so many of the things I love about Sevilla. So here are some fun pictures of Ferias past and ‘mi gente’-dear friends, now family- I’ve known and loved for over two decades…

71AD47EA-2076-4C0E-8944-420924790994

Mi gente from this year and Ferias Past (mejor amigo, Oscar and I, his wife and daughter, Alejandro & Valen dancing ‘the Sevillanas’, and ‘los chicos’…

catadral.blog

La Giralda

IMG-2724

My first Feria in ’98

araceli.bailando

My beautiful friend, Araceli…a patient soul who taught me the Sevillanas

IMG_6675

El toro de oro

orange.trees.sevilla

The source of one of my favorite smells: orange blossoms

IMG_6649

My Spanish niece, Esther, and her beautiful mama…

IMG_6642

My Spanish mom and sis…my two favorite ‘Maites’.

IMG_6738

Manolo, my favorite trouble-maker

Adorable+kids+dressed+in+flamenco+dresses+-+Feria+De+Abril,+Seville

161224 0011

Bringing Briya (my company) to the streets of Sevilla (photo by the extremely talented Alvaro Rodriguez Galan

IMG-2720

Your Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Here’s a sneak preview of what I’m hoping you’ll finish in a certain publication you might have heard of.  No guarantee, of course, but fingers crossed.

He had told me he needed to leave over an hour ago, but he was still here. A battle of wits was in full swing. I was winning, and I could tell he liked it.

The banter continued, the chemistry, obvious. He finally paused, studying my face. My chest tightened. I knew that look, and I knew what was coming.

“You are, I don’t know, I’ve just never met anyone…”

I stopped him before he could finish, “Are you married?”

He laughed, clearly taken aback, then looked down.

“No. I mean, not technically. Or I guess technically I am, but it’s been over for a long time.”

This is now one of the first questions I ask if I’m interested in someone. And this is what I’ve learned: “no” usually means yes and “getting a divorce” means I want a divorce, but I’m not yet and won’t be for an indeterminate amount of time.

To be clear, I’m not seeking out men who are married. But as it turns out, being 40ish and newly single seems to be the status quo. It also turns out that single or even just available is open to interpretation.

When I first got divorced, one ex-boyfriend after another started reaching out. I was a bit naïve in the beginning, thinking they just wanted to catch up. I quickly realized that even if we aren’t the type to keep our married status current or obvious, social media can be telling if someone’s paying attention. It can also be very deceptive.

When the one I never quite got over showed up, I, of course, scoured his social media. His status? Married. There was a good amount of pictures of his kids and family vacations, so I reasoned he must just want to catch up.

After a drink or two, however, I got the truth. He’d been separated for months. The marriage was over and had been for years. The situation was complicated: the kids, the house, the finances…but he was finally ready to move on.

This all made sense at the time. My divorce was painful and not immediate. But logistically, it was relatively simple and finalized within a few months. In short, we didn’t have children.

So I listened. I listened to him tell me that he’s thought about me all this time, that he loves his kids but wondered if he made the wrong decision, that the reality is, I’m the person he wants to be with. Yes, I was still a little crazy, but I’m like no one he’s ever met…

I believed him and we plunged in. I had the person I thought I was meant to be with, and he had an exciting distraction from the painful reality of his day-to-day.

Therein lies the tragic flaw. For men in the thick of a mid-life crisis, I’m a distraction from reality, existing in the realm of a fantasy they conjure up.

I’ve become their manic pixie dream girl, the female version of a night in shining armor who “…has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.”

This is it, in a nutshell: (explained by Hugo Schwzer)

I thought less about her and more about how it was she made me feel… As unstable as she may be, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl not only senses a young man’s potential in a way he can’t, she intuitively knows how to lead him to his destiny. She knows him better than he knows himself, or so he believes. That convenient assumption allows the young man both to adore the MPDG and to avoid any responsibility for reciprocity. How can he be expected to give anything back when she has this magical intuition about the world that so vastly exceeds his own?