Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How is J. Carlos Velazquez healthy?

[I wrote this piece seven years ago and as I move closer to being 50 I can learn much from the insights I have gained with more years passing. The piece captures how I perceive myself as a healthy person spiritually, emotionally, and in connection to family and friends. In health there is truth and in truth there needs to be health.] 

I am happy to be happy.  
I am satisfied with being satisfied.  

On turning 40 I can laugh at the arrogance I displayed in having to cope with my own insecurities as a young adult.  I would have to invent the truth to make myself feel better about what I lacked.  I wanted to make the world a better place and I there was no hesitation in my fierceness for justice, even if the truth seemed inescapable.

I am less likely to feel compelled to prove myself.  Instead, I depend on my abilities and the strengths I feel most comfortable with in a profession that has brought me great satisfaction.  I push knowledge and acceptance at the same level that I advocated for nonviolence and equality in my earlier years.  The platforms we assume change only with the passions of the season:  Or perhaps with the understanding that our work as an advocate reflects that which we feel compelled to preserve and change simultaneously.

I have played many roles in my life.  Some were silly like the young thespian who screamed through dramatic roles to win a prize.  I was an organizer who motivated people to take charge of their own community.  I was a teacher who pushed students to think critically about the world around them.  I was even an administrator who worked long hours only to be scared to make the books balance on an evening's end.  But most of all I was a brother, uncle, son, and friend for many who I have had the good fortune to have in my life.

To be a brother was crying at the decision to be named a Godfather.  To be an uncle was to charge full steam ahead at breaking barriers that have kept us silent.  To be a son was to play the tough role when there were demands for peace and family unity.  To be a friend has been undeniably the most rewarding of all my roles, thus far.  As times have been good with friends when they have been around to pick me up as lovers rejected me.  And times were even better when I joked about my childhood pranks over a glass of wine.

My friends have formed an extended family and many a tear has fallen when the pain of difference reminded me of the many struggles we must still endure.  I remember quite well the night I called my friend in San Francisco to describe the pain I felt when a good friend was murdered in the name of hate.  The pain cut through me like a razor's edge would tear a strand of hair.  The pain was fast, scarring, and split me from the reality that words are less powerful than a bullet or knife when they are used as weapons of bigotry.

My friends have listened to my ranting of injustice, fears, and jealousies.  They have understood my perspective which was always the right one (or so I say).  They supported me through triumphs and doubts in a way that my family would hear about as tales for another chapter.  I am grateful for the friends I have kept for many years and the rewarding new friendships I have fostered in the last five.  I take pride in making friends who are boldly honest, kindly driven, and share a curiosity for the world around them.

There will be a time when my kinship roles will take a new importance in my life.  This I assume will happen when I settle into a permanent relationship or welcome the day of having a family of my own.  On turning 40 I have noticed that there is less that excites me but that my anger still needs to be controlled.  I need to let more laughter escape me and to allow for the softness in me to unfold.  I need to take the time to hear the sound of water caressing the rocks of a quiet stream.  I should cherish the glaze of red that streaks across the skies of a city's landscape.  And I should stop to engulf myself in the laughter of children playing.

Instead, I focus too much attention to my computer screen which seems to know my deepest thoughts.  I send orders by the Internet forgetting that there is a human receiver on the other end.  I extend my hours at an office that seems protective from the distractions of homelessness, crime, and exploitation.  I should avoid insulating myself to the point that I forget that there are other injustices in the world beyond health disparities, but by that same token I should not allow myself to become too distracted by the aesthetic where I lose touch with the harshness of every day life.

At turning 40 I am comfortable with myself to a degree that I have not enjoyed for any year that I can remember.  I want to better myself but only because it would be good for me and not to prove to others that I am worthy of any title or position.  I want to continue to fight for social justice but in a way that would seem to make a difference.  I want to maintain my ties with my friends and a sense of harmony with my family but with an understanding that these relationships should be an extension of my love for all.  I am happy to be happy.  I am satisfied with being satisfied.  I hope that I can live my life continuously full not to be filled with the need to be continuously discontent.  This feeling should be less the motivator as I learn to let go, love freely, and want less.

-- J. Carlos Velazquez
Alexandria, Virginia
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