Highs and Lows

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Ms Hulis Mavruk Black Artwork

I begrudgingly worked for a prominent insurance company for 2 years. It had highs and lows. I was taking a gap year from Stony Brook University.  However, in my twenties we didn’t call it a “gap year.”  There was no cute term for leaving school or taking a break from school.  I was tired of working 3 jobs and being a “broke college student” so I chased the money and I chose the industry that my mother worked in.   I liked the company when I first started but as time passed it became stale.  The main attraction to the position was the money I was making and the annual profit share.  On another note, I was in a relationship and admittedly I was more focused on that. Young and dumb, the man I was with at the time had a driving restriction.  Trying to literally be a “ryde or die,” I would pick him up in the mornings and bring him to work on my way to my job.  Some mornings it was pretty tight trying to get us both to corporate positions that both carried a dependability clause. That basically means…”If you can’t get your ass to work on time, you’re fired.”  I was on a written warning and on a rainy day/snooze my alarm 2-3 times day/traffic/ can’t find a parking space day, I arrived to work a critical 9 minutes late.  Well, it took a few weeks to notice but shortly after presenting me with an award for my call quality and after receiving a congratulatory email from my supervisor for being a “team player” I was called into the main conference  room. I remember feeling incredibly calm.  My supervisor and my manager told me they had no choice but to “part our professional ways.”  They asked if I had any questions and I told them I didn’t. I stood and shook their hands and wished them both an early Happy Mothers Day.

My mother isn’t big on “Hallmark holidays.”  Yet, being fired for the first time seemed more of a failure because it happened the Friday before Mother’s Day.  How in the hell was I going to tell her?  My parents got divorced my freshman year in college. When I left school, I moved back home with my mother and baby sister. We would lean on one another a lot. We sometimes would affectionately call our trio “The Three Musketeers.”  It had highs and lows. This was going to be a low.  My mom was reliable and responsible.  She was learning how to fit into a fairly new role.  I was supposed to be a help and not a hindrance. I felt guilty, careless, and ashamed. So I chose to omit my termination.

This is where there is some pixelation in my memory reel.  I don’t remember how my mother found out I was no longer working but she did. What I do remember is her acceptance.  I remember her reminder that this was a temporary setback and I would quickly find something else.  She didn’t remind me of all the sacrifices she made for my sister and I.  She didn’t shove private school bills in my face.  She definitely didn’t tell me I ruined her Mother’s Day.  She simply moved on.  Many of us can forgive but forgetting is the true challenge.  Many of us try to provide everything our children want and need but we have a cerebral calculation of every dime spent and every minute served. Parenting is about highs and lows. 

Thank you to a mother that came to every concert.  Thank you for buying patterns and sewing Halloween costumes and dance costumes.  Thank you for exposing me to Broadway plays.  Thank you for a standing hair appointment beginning at age 3.  Thank you for the lows too.  You taught me how to survive them.  How to be strong.  How to pray before I speak.  How to think with my heart and ignore the noise. How to ask for help.  How to try to come to terms with the things I cannot change and still don’t fully understand.  Thank you, Mom, every day.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

 

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The Icing On the Cake …

Photo by Shaun Liriano

Your heart is cracked and split at the seams.  The losses you’ve endured, others wouldn’t have been able to survive. You’re resilience is unmatched.

Pride flows out of you like like a crashing winding river. It has unexpected bends and speeds.  It drowns everyone you touch in excellence.  Your stare exudes a longing for progression.

Your touch could melt ice. Your voice is soft but strong.  Your tongue is poetry.

Your hope is infectious.

Your smile makes the brightest star jealous .  It cannot match your luminescence.

You see…

The way you look and the way you feel is just the “icing on the cake.”

By Shaun Liriano

“As Far As I Can Throw You”

Photography by Shaun Liriano

He threw her.  Just threw her with full force like you chuck a football through a field. He threw her. She flew through the air.

I always knew I could fly, she said.

For the first time there was someone he could trust with his life and he wanted to show her that he cared.  He wanted to show her that she was special.  He wanted to show her that he’d be “mush” without her.

I trust you about as far as I can throw you, he said.

Then he threw her.  He hurled her body and watched it spiral through the air. His love poured out of the sweat that beaded on her forehead.  His faith sprouted wings in her back.  His hope stripped her naked and replaced her bland clothing with an aerodynamic super suit colorful enough to match her vibrant personality.

At first, she was afraid. Fretfully, she gathered herself and tried to get her bearings.  She tried to get used to being in the company of birds, high branches, and jet planes approaching their landings. She screamed in excitement.  No one seemed alarmed that she was up there.  They expected her to be in the sky.  It was as if she didn’t belong on the ground and everyone knew it.

He didn’t look at her though. Once he threw her he didn’t wonder if she could take flight.  He BELIEVED she could. So he obliviously kicked a ball through a field and watched it roll on. He read an article from time to time. He viewed television shows at leisure. He felt the warmth of an onlookers admiring glance. He chugged along knowing she was soaring through the sky for the first time.

Isn’t he wondering if I am okay?  How does he know a larger creature hasn’t consumed me?  Hasn’t he thought about my loneliness? Sometimes it’s cold up here.  I don’t know anyone up here.  Sometimes I’m scared.  I’ve never flown before.  I’ve never been thrown before.  At first it was fun but where is he?  What is he doing?

Her fear ignited a fire so fierce it singed her beautiful wings. It incinerated her custom costume.  It sent her flailing through the sky clumsily…falling.

She landed in a bed of roses.  The thorns, long and sharp, pierced her skin and her blood mixed with the crimson red of the rose petals.  Her body naked and covered in ashes and blood writhed in pain.

She screamed out in horror, “My love! Where are you?  Why didn’t you fly with me?  Why did you leave me all alone?”

Silence.  She waited in the cold.  Naked. Vulnerable.

All the while, he returned to the field of her original launch every day after breakfast.  He wondered why she never returned. He assumed she must be enjoying the clean air, the ascension.

Why didn’t she ever try to throw me?

He felt her absence but he also felt her presence.

-By: Shaun Liriano

*Dedicated to my muse.

My life is part humor, part roses, part thorns.

~Bret Michaels

 

 

Again…

There she goes again with that dumb hat.

She did her hair first and then she put on that dumb hat…again. 

Does she want me to pay for her hair?  She can’t think it’s sexy. It covers her eyes.  I love her eyes. It hides her long thick hair.  I love her hair.  I imagine having her hair sewn into a blanket I can wrap myself in. She puts a hoodie over that beautiful frame. She throws sweats on and she falls into “comfort” but I can’t find her in the layers of fabric.  There are already so many layers to her.  When I peel back one, I notice the next, and each time I peel I find something new to fall in love with or temporarily hate.  She’s an anomaly. She’s a walking talking anomaly.  She is proof of God’s sense of humor.  She was made out of perplexities and unrealistic expectations and …humility.  She’s a body of water moving freely through her own veins.  Water instead of blood.  She gives life to herself and still praises something greater than herself. 

I can’t see her eyes.  How will I know if she is listening to me?  How will I know she can hear my heart beating?  How will she see the footnotes at the heel of my thoughts with giant asterisks that only she is disciplined enough to notice and read?

How will I know if there are tears I need to wipe away? 

I hate that stupid ass hat. 

(Woman enters the room.  Just got dressed.  Freshly showered and in her “favorite hat”)

Woman: Hey babe.  How do I look?

Man:  You look beautiful.  I like your hat.

By: Shaun Liriano

Etymology of Man

When my significant other and I argue, one of the phrases we use the most is, “Respect my growth!” We say that because we want recognition for the improvements that have been made over the course of the relationship. There are things he’s done in order to be better for me and there are things I have done in order to be better for him. Growth is a funny kind of thing. The big problem with growth is it is relative to the person who is actively growing in thought or maybe just in psyche. When I am long gone and the etymology of me is studied…(my history, my origin, how I was formed, and how I changed over time)…who knows what the end synopsis will be?
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I took a technology course for Summer Session 1 at Stony Brook University and one of the things that resonated with me was: “Information is data presented in a meaningful context. Frequency and severity have a lot to do with the way information is processed. Things have to be done systematically so that everyone can benefit.” THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE SYSTEMATICALLY SO THAT EVERYONE CAN BENEFIT. The course was about technology in the workplace but the things I learned are relevant to everyday life. If I was just disciplined enough to channel skills in the right direction, then I would be more productive and more successful in terms of communication.

Arguments, fights, disagreements, absence, and challenges all contribute to growth. Though they may be painful or uncomfortable at the time, they are necessary in “forming” you and/or your relationships with others. When you’re sick, you appreciate the person who says, “When I was sick, ______ helped.” You appreciate it even more if that person hands you a bottle of what their remedy was or sends you a link to a useful web site. Sympathy and empathy build relationships and contribute to the “formation” of that mutualism. There are organisms in marine biology that survive on mutualism. They need another organisms production or even waste in order to fuel their own life source. As humans, we are cocky. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t need anyone… I am self-made” or some variation of that? Yet, if we were a fly on the wall throughout their development I’m sure we would see how untrue that is. We would see the friend or family member that passed away or deserted them and the thick wall that they put up after that occurrence. We would see the people whose efforts are the foundation of their self-proclaimed “self-made” empire.
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I started a gratitude journal today. I can see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. I am in no way promulgating self-help techniques. For those who know me, I’m not exactly the poster child for ALWAYS being calm, relaxed or even disciplined. I had to find something that I could implement in my daily life to force me to revisit positivity. See, I begin my day with prayer and affirmations. By the time 5-6pm comes around…I’m miserable. Work, traffic, bill collectors, etc have already put a damper on my mood. It’s important to stay in the right head space. When I was young and in martial arts training, my uncle would say, “Attitude determines approach and approach determines whether you pass or fail.” Somewhere over the years, I abandoned that way of thinking and I suffered for it. Consequently, my loved ones have suffered for it too.

I invite you to comment (I approve all comments before they are posted to the site so you may not see it right away.) I invite you to take this gratitude journey with me. I will be posting the things I am grateful for every couple of days. Most importantly I invite you to critically think about things you have said that may have been hurtful. Think about things you may have done. Do not beat upon your spirit for those actions. Just remember that you still have a chance to rectify and edit who you are and your behaviors. You can’t always backspace or delete but you can modify! Send a thank you note today or just call someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Better yet, give yourself some appreciation today!! I’m looking forward to seeing how you systematically structure your emotional information system.

By:SMN

Smelly Feet [Cold Sweat Series]

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I awake from my 3rd dream only to see 2 eyes gazing at me intently. 

Oh no! What was he looking at? Was he noticing my unruly nighttime hair?  Was I drooling?  Was I babbling in my slumber? Was he a victim of my flatulence? 

Oh shit! Did I snore?  Maybe I kicked him? Did I steal the covers?  Maybe something I said during the day offended him and left him restless in his sleep? 

Did I weep from my haunting nightmares? Did I sweat and lose my womanly dainty air of predisposed perfection?
Did crust form in my eye? Should I have slept in make-up to hide all my imperfections? 

Did I laugh and give away my hopes and dreams for the future? Did I scream and allude to my fears? Have I lost my allure?

What is he looking at?!

He quickly apologizes for startling me. He says he wishes he knew what I dreamt about so he could make them come true. He says he likes my messy hair and all my other unfiltered accessories.   He holds my hand and thanks me for being in his life. Then he kicks his smelly socks off, puts on the t-shirt with the hole in the armpit,  the boxers with the bleach stain,  and curls up next to me. He closes his eyes…

…when he opens them again,  they meet mine.

Oh shit! What is she looking at?

By:SMN

Emotionally Unstable

I called my significant other and I asked him whether he thinks I’m emotionally unstable.
His reply was simple.
“We’re all emotionally unstable.”
Sometimes I wonder if I’m in more control than the average person because I dedicate so much time to introspection. I actually give a crud about my feelings. I embrace the very micro memories, disappointments, fears, failures, and daring ambitions that most people try to suppress.

I give a damn.

If I’m in love with you. I care about your dreams, what you ate for breakfast, what you always wanted for Christmas that you never received. 

If only you knew what goes through my head at 2am in the darkness of my one bedroom apartment. I check the doors to make sure they’re locked, even though I know I already have. I think if how I would kill the “bad guy” if someone tried to hurt my family. I pray for my loved ones and even my adversaries. I sing with confidence like im onstage somewhere and I’m going to accept an award after my performance. I feel exposed and vulnerable even if I am the only one in the room.

If it sounds overwhelming, it’s not. Recently, I’ve learned NOT to suppress these kinds of emotions with a glass (or two) of wine. I’ve learned that working 2-3 jobs to keep yourself busy and your mind cluttered doesn’t help either. At some point, your thoughts will intrude upon you like an uninvited guest. You may be embarrassed to mingle with them because you haven’t done the psychological housekeeping necessary to entertain those thoughts.

Emotionally unstable?

Child of divorced parents, private school education, mother, sister, significant other, Christian, college drop-out and drop-in, cynic and visionary. I’m an idealist. Eden and Utopia sound good to me. Scared and strong enough to admit it. Loved and courageous enough to submit to it. Analytical and arrogant enough to write this post.

Stop pretending to have it all figured out. Stop allowing people to place unrealistic expectations on you. Join me in my instability or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By:Shaun Nickens