For the first time in twenty-two years, I haven’t been measured, evaluated and given feedback about my performance. There haven’t been pop-quizzes, there haven’t been finals nor mid-terms.
I am now realising the extent to which, somewhere deep inside of me, I have a bias that the Caribbean, with all of its corruption, poor excuses for self-governance and traditionalism, is the BEST place in the world.
Early on in the vacation, I lost an old friend and sailing coach in a freak accident. This death threw me way off course and affected me a lot more than I could have expected it to. While I did not like this person at first, I then went forward to have a teenage crush on him for a number of (years)…yeah.
This death, paired with other frustrations, caused me to head outdoors into the sunshine. I needed to deal with grief, anger, and sadness. So, I went swinging. Every weekend, I would go to a park in one of the neighborhoods that I was raised in. Under an evening sky, I would swing with my sorrow. I would rush back and forth through my pain. The blades of grass beneath my feet shivered as the disturbed air blew across them.
At the beginning of the vacation, I went about once a week, or once every two weeks. By the end of the vacation, I would go every few days. I cried on that swing. I thought of old happy times, I thought of my frustrations of feeling ‘stuck’ in situations, in Trinidad, in university. As the fading sun cast pastel colours into the Eastern sky, I looked around sadly. I sat and appreciated the beauty that my eyes beheld but the heaviness of my heart would not be solved by such brilliance. Perhaps, the answers that I needed were much simpler.
Too often, it was well into dusk before I left the park. I sat there thinking about death, about if there was an afterlife. Mostly, in these thoughts, I wondered if James, if he still existed in some sort of spiritual form, would visit the park. After all, his home’s backyard lay right onto it. As the trees welcomed the nesting birds for the night, I wondered if James walked in the grass. I wondered if he swung next to me. Quietly.
On every visit to the swings, I went through a wide range of emotions.
Sometimes, life really sucked. I felt as if I could not make the connections that I wanted to make. I knew that there were other people in Trinidad who were interested in similar things as I. Yet, I felt insufficient, I did not “move” in the same circles as these people. Their seemingly tight-knit friendships formed decades in the past didn’t seem to have room between the weaves for a new person. The timing was never right. That’s what I told myself. I didn’t even try.
Instead, I made friends with the blue sky, the setting sun, the worn earth beneath the seat of the swing. I could not help but smile when I flew forward to kiss the sky. I grinned as I swung backward, falling freely.
But sometimes, I would simply sit there not swinging very much. Sometimes, I would not think about anything. I would rest my head on the chain links that support the swing, and I would just be. Sometimes that was all that I was able to do. There, on the swing, I made peace with my existence.
It was on one such day, out of nowhere, that I made a very special affirmation. To myself, I very simply stated, that, even if the world came tumbling down around me, (some days it definitely felt that way*) literarily, or figuratively, I was going to be Optimistic and Brilliant. I was going to make space for the good. If everything else went to shit but there was a tree with green leaves, or a blue sky, or an open field left behind, that was what I was going to focus on. I was going to find my joy in that blue sky or in that one tree. Each minute that passed by was a minute of my life. A minute that I had invested in negativity, a minute that I could not ‘do-over’, a minute that I would never get back.
Each second that goes by is a second less of your life that you have to live. If every day you are in inevitable traffic, and every day you are upset because of it, you are letting precious moments slip through your fingers. Find something simple, something insignificant, study it and make it a source of happiness. Make it a source of bliss. Find it!
[*Some things are greater than me, they are not only my problem, or my issue. There are other people in the impact zone. As a result, I can not discuss them freely here, however, I can talk about how those situations that I experienced made me feel. I’ve done as such. The situation calls for me being elusive. ]
I did not go to counseling this summer, but I went to the swing. Swinging implies movement but you remain in the same place. It gets you off of the Earth, you soar with the stars, the clouds, and the planets. Amidst all of the celestial entities, you find a space. I have not a clue why I enjoy swinging so much. To be truthful, I would get extremely motion sick swinging, in the early days of my park visits. However, I realized that as my visits went by, I was less sick each time. Eventually, there was nothing. By the end of the summer, a lot had changed.
My time in Trinidad was melting away. One month, then three weeks, then, five days.
It seemed that all of the time spent floating with my celestial kindred had delighted the universe. It scooped me up like a newborn infant. It cooed at me, it fed me, it nourished me. The universe showed me that it saw me, it knew my plight, my tears were not in vain. They were part of a process.
Over the last epoch of my time in Trinidad, things began to change. In stories, novels at least, the writer begins to pull the plot together. Problems existing long before the start of the story, begin to get solutions. Characters start to see their way through, the pages in your right hand are as thin as a newspaper. If you’ve enjoyed the story, perhaps it is a bit heart wrenching to be soon leaving the characters behind. If it was a thriller, very soon the suspense will be over.
Those were my last days with the swing. Each time I visited, something new would be solved. I would come to peace with something new.
The moments after swinging were what I would have liked to imagine occurs after the Holy Eucharist is consumed. The connection between me and ‘that which IS’ (the universe, God, Allah, etc. etc.) was so powerful that I could very obviously see its influence. In these last weeks, it was even more intense.
Since James’ death, I wanted to speak to his parents, I wanted to send them a letter, or draw them a picture. James was the first person that I ever sailed with and my very first sailing instructor. James’ work made an enormous impact on me. At that point in time, I was not fond of him at all. We had not launched the 420 thirty seconds before I told him that I really did not like what I had seen of him so far. I was ten years old. Things changed. His parents lived mere meters away from the swing but I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t bring myself to go.
On the day that I was to return the paints that I borrowed to paint the piece for his parents, I went to the swings, as I often did. The piece was not painted and I left in less than a dozen days. I swung for a while, then, very suddenly got up, left the swing and went towards my truck. Pulling off from the curb that I was parked at, I drove at a much higher than usual speed around the back of the neighborhood. I marveled to myself. This all felt very strange. Why did I leave the swing so abruptly? Why am I driving faster than usual?
I didn’t have the answer until a few seconds later. I had come around the bottom of the circular, approaching the other side of the park when it was explained to me. I passed James’ old street just as his mother was closing their front gate. I pulled breaks suddenly and stuck the gear stick into reverse, then first gear as I turned onto their street.
At that moment, on that evening, I was to be sharing my heart with James’ parents. It was the way of the universe, it was was the destiny of ‘that which IS’. I had gone as I was led, I trusted the vibe within, I was carried, and I was delivered to the door that I needed to be at. Something that weighed heavily on me was resolved. I did no work, I only followed the guidance of ‘that which IS’.
At these swings, I always sat in the same seat. However, a few days before I left, it was time for me to expose what was once a wound but had healed. On that evening, someone who managed to hold a significant space in my life, sat on ‘my’ swing seat. I sat at their side.
(this is so hard to write- …. mehh, bah,)
I’d say this: Take time to heal if you were hurt, take time to forgive others and to forgive yourself. Take time to grow. Take time to understand, to form new opinions, to challenge old opinions. Understand that the future will only unveil itself as it happens. Do not hold on tightly. If a relationship ends, a relationship where you truly cared about each other, you should be coming out of it better people than when it began. During that time you should have learned about yourself, you should have expanded your understandings and you should have grown. In love you should never lose, you should always grow. Even if it ends.
Into the darkness, we shared with each other where the last year that we had not spoken for, had taken us. We found that the ego, at least, serving the ego, can keep us away from that which our being truly wants. A bone may be mended, wishing to be used but you may still want the convenience of the wheelchair.
Healed but tender were our hearts, first with fear of rejection, then with the heaviness of addressing that which needed to be said. And at last, they were tender from the laughing, the feeling of forgiveness, acceptance, and love. It was refreshing to speak with someone who had known me, in the capacity of a friend for a long time. Someone who knew the past to my current realities. It was satisfying to see that we had both grown since we were last on speaking terms. It was relieving to finally be able to discuss some of the thousand things that had occurred, things that I would have shared, things I would have asked. Things that I wanted to ask even though we were no longer friends over that year. Things that my being wanted but my ego denied.
This is who I have come to know as myself: someone who loves regardless, someone who forgives, someone who will not switch compassion off. Growing up I would get into the absolute worst, horrible fights with my brother (mom & dad can testify) but afterward, I would still share my secrets with him. Knowing that we would soon hurt each other again, but also know that we were each other’s keepers.
On this journey, I have found other ‘keepers’ as well. Keepers are people who hold space for you. The special thing about keepers is that they don’t stop holding space for you overnight. You don’t stop holding space for them either, even after a year has passed.
PSA: This is in no, no way an endorsement to return to someone who has a history of hurting you, being abusive or threatening. If someone, a friend, partner, whatever, is being abusive, GET THE FUCK OUT! This was one situation that was very difficult to experience but it was not at all in that arena. If something that you are dealing with, is in that arena, don’t use this blog post as “confirmation” or “as a message” that you should return to that relationship that hurts you but you still care very much for the person. No, GTFO. ❤
In Montreal, I had an amazing counsellor, I was able to process things that needed to be processed. I got through some gnarly bouts of depression. I was so grateful for this. The actual dollar value for the quality was much more than I would have been able to pay. Back in Trinidad, I did not start back. I went to the swing. I dealt with an ugly depressive episode in the earlier half of the summer and increasingly worse anxiety throughout. Returning to this swing, time and time again established a ritual for acceptance, self-centering, and resilience.
Just before leaving Trinidad, I was paid a visit by one of the lights in the universe. The person was with me for initially one, then an accidental second day. While I showed them the way to the park, I did not visit it then. A portion of me now wishes that I could have shared that very special place with them. Not as strong as a regret but not as soft as an “oh well..” I know that there is a way and a course that this river of life will flow through, I’m an active participant. The future will be as it is and it will be revealed to me as it occurs. I rest in this, all of my almost regrets, hopes, wishes and loves do too.
In my new home, I’m far away from my swing but perhaps I will find it’s equivalent here. I hope that you find your swing in the park. I hope you spend time with the celestial beings. I hope you work on yourself and love wholeheartedly. I hope you follow your being and do not give into the ego. If you feel ‘that which IS’, I hope you flow.
So here I am, feeling more shattered than wholesome. I think back to a year ago. Back then I was certain that by now the tides would be changed.
They did not.
We dashed through the waves while the sun dashed to bed. The weekend was in its last moments but the beauty was endless.
Challenge yourself but don’t put yourself in positions that you don’t feel comfortable in.
Not just comfortable, but if you feel like you are morally compromising your beliefs then you need to change things.
Even if it is difficult because that situation comforts you or provides for you in some way or another.
Often times, things that are against what we stand for take great tolls on our bodies when we partake in them.
Jobs, relationships, classes, sports, meals. If done in alignment with your moral code, even challenging activities can improve your mood.
However, challenging activities that aren’t along your path really break down your life stamina.
Love yourself, don’t spend your fleeting life doing things that break you down. Where there is a will there is a way.
Seeing that I no longer participate in one of the activities that I talked about above, I was able to have some extra time to attend a yoga class today.
You cannot see my smile but Sir Whaley is smiling back at you.
When missing Shannon Banfield’s body was found in a building in Port of Spain the nation was outraged, heart-broken, filled with disgust. We have to pray for this country. (8th December, 2016)
When 6 year old Sean Luke was sexually molested, buggered and murdered in a cane field, the nation was outraged, heart-broken, filled with disgust. We have to pray for this country. (28th March, 2006)
When 6 year old Marc Prescott went missing from the front gates of his primary school the nation was outraged when he was never, not to this day, found, the nation was heart-broken, filled with disgust. We have to pray for this country. (May, 2003)
Tonight, a woman, Jamilia Derevenaux, has been gruesomely murdered in the Movie Towne parking lot. (5th February, 2017) #prayforTnT
Can you tell how the nation is reacting?
Hint: The nation is outraged, heart-broken, filled with disgust.
You may as well stop reading here because what I have to say isn’t going to sit well with you. Perhaps it is going to make you more uncomfortable. It doesn’t make me comfortable. It tells me that I’m part of the problem as well.
- We react, over and over and over. Reacting is easy, reacting is emotional, reacting gives us space to mourn. The more we react, the more the burden from the event is reduced. We post Facebook statuses, we talk about how horrible it was, we hashtag ‘prayforTnt’, we carry on.
- Prayer is supposedly powerful so we pray in a response to these things. We pray in our homes, in our cars, in our offices, in our schools, in our places designated for worship. We pray, we pray, we pray. By praying and emphasizing the need for us to be praying, every time we pray, we feel as if we are contributing to the ‘change’. Yet, there is another murder, another kidnapping, another rape.
At what point do we realise that our method isn’t working? At what point do we take this situation into our own hands? A long time ago, when I was a child and there was that kidnapping spree, I expected a revolution, I thought that something would be done. I saw children my age go missing and never return, show up dead, have a hefty ransom staked against their lives. I expected a revolution from the adults because the crime was getting so bad and it was all that the adults spoke about.
That revolution never came.
We prayed, sometimes we marched, we talked some and then we prayed some more. We never had that revolution. I remember talking about migrating with my parents. I remember distinctly driving past Artie’s Meats in Diego Martin and telling my mother that I would not leave because if we left then the bandits were winning. At that time, I didn’t know much about white collar crime. I knew about the sensationalised crimes and the children my age who we disappearing.
I thought that we shouldn’t leave because we should fight back. (If you know me, you know that I am 100% about peace, you know that I can’t even watch shows with violence.) At the time, fighting back didn’t mean physically getting personal access to guns and maze for the citizenry’s personal protection. To me, fighting back meant being vigilant, both fixing the me in criME as well as having the police service work efficiently with all of the tools that they needed.
I didn’t know how corrupt the police service was. I didn’t know that the ones whose job it was to protect and serve were sometimes more interested in protecting criminals and serving their own back pockets. I didn’t know that the judicial system often worked in a way that ensured that only people of certain races would ever end up behind bars. I didn’t know that justice was not always the order of the courts but also under the table cuts and shares. I thought that when someone ran for the office to lead our country they were committed to making our twin island republic a holistically better place. I didn’t know all of these things yet I thought that our country needed a revolution.
Now, I’m twenty-two years old. Now I’m an adult. Now I have those conversations that I used to listen to as a child. Now I have a five year old god-daughter who is listening to those conversations that I(we) have. Soon enough, she too will realise how bad things are in our country. Soon enough, she’ll know the things that I know and then, soon enough she too will be an adult.
Now I’m an adult and when I think about crime in Trinidad and Tobago, I think about a body. I think about a body that has a severely damaged brain. That body cannot function effectively, slowly, it won’t be able to function at all. Unfortunately, our twin island state is not a body; we cannot disconnect the life support and let that body die. We can’t because we are the body, and the trees are the body, and the beaches and birds, and the rainforests are the body. We can’t call game over but we can slowly and eternally die which is exactly what is happening. Things get worse and we accept new normals; we accept worse normals.
I thought that the adults would have started a revolution.
The revolution never came.
I became an adult, my thoughts changed over the time. I did anything to be able to spend less time in Trinidad. When asked, I always say, I love the topography of Trinidad but other wise I hate the crude, corrupted place. I hate that I live there, I hate how much more intense my anxiety and depression is because of Trinidad.
Whenever I shared these thoughts the response was >90% always the same. Sure, it is bad, they said, but there is crime everywhere. The only thing was that I did not give a flying fuck about anywhere else. I was angry and saddened that my home was so overridden with crime. I didn’t care that there was crime elsewhere, I cared that we made excuses for ourselves.
I became an adult and the revolution never came.
I became an adult and I never started the revolution.
There was no revolution, we reacted, we were passive, we prayed, we talked, we shared statuses, we were sad. We were scared, we prayed. We stayed at home, we got home early, we got burglarproofing, we built tall walls, we got automatic gates, we got security cameras, we were scared, we played carnival, we were merry, we went to church, we prayed, we had a state of emergency. It was very easy, we all did it together. My behaviour and response to crime in my homeland was mirrored by everyone I interacted with.
I’m an adult now and I haven’t started the revolution.
However, from 2012-2014 I was part of a small revolution that my dad started against corruption in government organisations. From that experience I can say that it is both scary and difficult to start a revolution. Those that you fight against are part of the system that runs the country. They spend hundreds of thousands in advertising each month; the media won’t cover your revolution. The people would be hesitant to join you because the revolution might not reflect well on them even if they believe in the cause. Yet still, revolt.
I’m an adult now and I wonder about the success of revolutions. I think that perhaps once there is change, any type of change, a revolution was successful. It means then, that there was action instead of only reaction.
I think that the revolution isn’t going to one about praying. I think the revolution is one about cleansing. I think that a poorly functioning brain or heart is more likely to significantly affect a body than a strand of hair, or a broken fingernail.
I’m an adult now and I have more ideas about what the revolution should look like.
The ideal revolution’s outline:
All members of present government (in power, opposition, affiliates with a political group) will be relieved of their responsibilities. The positions should be filled by an elected (or otherwise appointed) group which will use true democracy. For every bill to pass in the house, every citizen of the country should have a vote on it. Every citizen should be taught and should attain an understanding of the system of government. Thereby making them better decision makers. There will not be political parties and ideally no elections for the first few years of this system. There will be a group of people, held constantly answerable to the population (after a certain amount of general education) and replaceable. These will not be positions of power nor prestige but of diligence and service.
All members of the present police, army and coast guard organisations will be relieved of their positions. Every citizen will have the responsibility of ensuring her or his security as well as that of her or his’ neighbours. There will be no nation wide court system for the first few years. Each community will come together and formulate their own set of laws concerning their responses to crime and what is considered crime. Those who commit offences in communities outside of their own will be tried according to the system in place where the offence was committed. There will be a national medical service and a national fire response service. Additionally, there will be a coastal response service which will seek the safety of mariners. The borders of the country will be open to all drug trafficking. However, human, animal and plant trafficking will not be permitted. Each community will draft laws concerning this. The use and production of marijuana will be decriminalised and legalised. Resources will not be utilised nor wasted on these matters. Citizens will not make outrageous profits from the transshipment nor redistribution of drugs.
The nation will move away from its reliance on nonrenewable resources. This will be attained over time. The length of time will be determined by how soon the country can become self reliant as well as how quickly it can terminate contracts with foreign enterprises. The country will move away from importation and dependence in all areas from food to technology. The work week will be adjusted as well as the value of money and its position in the society. There will be no difference in wages and opportunities for males or females. Quality and quantity will determine pay levels. Sustainable agriculture will be the focus of the nation. Work ethics will be created in every citizen. Citizens will contribute in a variety of ways to the nation and the nation will provide for them.
There will no longer be classification according to skin colour nor the ideas of the concept of race. There will be no admittance of foreigners to the nation (for the first few years). However, locals can come and go as they please while spending the majority of the year in the country. There will be a nation wide ban on all games, shows and movies that showcase or endorse violence. The elderly will be cared for by the larger community; they will still have responsibilities nonetheless. There will be nationwide programs connecting the citizens to the earth and nature. There will also be community organised, nationwide arts and crafts. There will be a very high sense of individual responsibility to the country.
Then, you can #prayforTnT.
This won’t happen though, we’ll just keep on getting scared and not calling out those around us who commit crimes (ills against society/another). We’ll depend on a body with a poorly functioning brain to somehow be dependable. We will blame political party after political party for not doing anything to fix crime. We will continue to look towards systems riddled with corruption to ensure our security. We will continue to #prayforTnT. That is a lot less time consuming than starting a revolution.
RUSHELL ROUSSEAU- Another, fed-up, frustrated citizen doing nothing about the situation while dreaming of a revolution.
PS. If the use of the word ‘fuck’ in this essay deeply affects you in a negative way I simply ask you to understand the weight of the word and why it was appropriate. I also ask you to consider how much effort you put into focusing on stray chin hairs. (I have PCOS and quite a few! They are societally unsightly and entirely harmless but they tell of a much more serious occurrence in the body. )