Monday, October 28, 2013


Anyone who has followed me for even a millisecond knows the story of my five parents, 17 some odd siblings, 55 nieces and nephews and the 100s of cousins, aunts, uncles and family of choice, which make up my ridiculously large tribe. For those of you who don't already know, here is the quick recap. I was born to a mom who was in foster care since birth and a dad who was already married. I was taken by the state and placed into temporary custody by that family which legally adopted me at the age of seven. I found my close-knit birth family when I was 46. My adoptive dad had a second family with whom I went to live at 16. It was there that I learned about love and life from a very loving and caring step-mom. As a result, I have had five very loving parents each with his or her own ideas about parenting, love and life. They ranged in age from the youngest who died in 2011 at 67 to the oldest who is now 96, has dementia and no recollection, no clue as to who I am. I am 52.

At 52  we are supposed to be grown ups - whatever that means. I still am unclear. I think it means that you are supposed to have the answers and know what you are doing. I have a lot of friends who have a lot of answers, some of which I don't agree with and a lot of friends who, like me are still figuring it out. I have friends who seem to know what they are doing, until they don't. I believe I thought I had it figured out in my 40s and had the answers and knew what I was doing. And I did, until the bottom fell out and I realized I was as clueless as the next guy.

So, what is this grown up thing about anyway? I know I have dropped the "whoever has the most toys at the end, wins" model because it doesn't work for me. I do agree with David Orr who says, " The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little dot do with success as our culture has defined it." I am not so sure that is the whole thing either. Some of my older siblings seem to have it figured out. They have successfully raised children, bought homes, have great careers, and contribute in meaningful ways to their communities, but even some of them are still figuring it all out. At 52 I am still unclear about what this is supposed to mean, how to manage it all and today, I am feeling just a little lost.

I remember sitting with my sister at the ripe age of eight or nine and she eleven or twelve, and counting what year it would be when we would be 50, 60 and God forbid, 75. Ancient. Old. Decrepit. We marched around our bedroom bent over creaking along with a cane fashioned out of some prop or other our voices shaking along with our bodies as we intoned the aged versions of our younger selves. We neglected to note the spry, witty 85-year-old in the next room, whom I am certain sat giggling at the antics of her beautiful granddaughters. We also failed to take notice of the 50-year-old mother who often held down two jobs while managing her household, three children, her mom, her husband and the numerous volunteer activities she drove - Camp Fire, Scouts, CYO to name a few, and the commute she and my dad made daily to courier us to Wellesley where we could obtain a fine education and some day rule the world. Incidentally, all of my parents were dreamers, so I come by my dreams honestly.

I watched my adoptive parents work in concert, each with his and her designated role as they moved our lives forward with calculating precision. What we wore and how we were presented to the world was Mom's domain. Dad was ever the archivist taking stock of when and where, providing logistical support and photographing the memories to prove we'd been there. They talked in hush conversations about money, where to spend what, how to fix what, who was going to do what. I recall small memories of conversations about how to finance my big brother's college education and the elation when he received a partial scholarship to Boston College. It hadn't been the basketball scholarship from his playing at Don Bosco, which was hoped for, but it was something, enough for my parents to cobble together the rest. Mom worked cleaning offices at a bank to pay for his books so he could just focus on school. All of this was before his number came up in the draft. Even that they handled with aplomb. Despite Dad's finagling, my brother went off to Vietnam, but managed to land a job serving in an office in South Korea while his buddies were out in the field.

My adoptive parents were shining examples of responsibility when it came to us kids, the large beautiful home they bought in a desirable neighborhood in the Grove Hall section of Roxbury, the choices they made regarding our extracurricular activities: music, dance, tennis, community service, Camp Fire and Scouts all of it seemed so easy. They shuttled us around to whatever activities were required of us for school - no small feat in the 60s and 70s Wellesley and Milton, Massachusetts. Yet there we were attending schools and summer camps where none of the children looked like us. We spent parts of the spring, summer and fall on the Vineyard where everyone looked like us. We visited aunts and uncles in New York in the city and on Long Island in Sag Harbor, we rode buses to Philly and Newark. We went on ski trips north in New Hampshire and Vermont and when I was very young we spent summers at my uncle's place in Maine. We ate in restaurants and attended fairs and seldom noticed that we were the only blacks in the place. My parents knew, but never let on that something might be amiss. They were careful. They were responsible. They made good decisions. They took care of us. They showed up and were there. They modeled good behavior and high expectations. They showed us how to live in the world. And most of this was done when they were my age now or younger.

Even with this remarkable picture painted for us, there were cracks in the veneer of the frame holding the whole thing together. My parents were unhappy in their marriage as evidenced by my dad's extramarital activities. Eventually the frame broke as did the glass and everything else holding the picture together. Responsibility extends beyond what you do for your children and within the community. For me, it became clear that those responsibilities extended to how you treated the person you shared your bed with and made vows and commitments to. That is part of my grown up picture. 

My step-mom and dad had a well-oiled machine in place when I arrived. One more mouth to feed and a shy, quirky one at that didn't change their routine. Mummy (as I called her) still got up in the morning and asked who wanted what for breakfast and made it, came home during lunch break to start dinner, did piles of laundry, went grocery shopping with Daddy, took us kids to appointments, stood up for us as our parents, punished us liberally as needed (which was often), taught us to be responsible with our belongings, each other and our word when we gave it. They played with us, joked with us, ate dinner with us, knew where we were and with whom and what we were doing most of the time while maintaining jobs and good social standings among their group of friends who were numerous.

Our home was one which was open to other kids to come over and hang out and stay if they needed to for whatever reason. My parents were without judgment, and instead offered measured advice to any teen who needed imparted wisdom. I loved my parents for that. And I loved my siblings - all of them, which now included adopted, half and step kids. I didn't care then and still don't now. I knew I was loved and cared for. When that parental unit changed, it was OK. We were a family still. I learned a lot about what that meant from that experience.

My birth parents taught me about faith, hope and love in ways I couldn't imagine. They taught me about making hard decisions both in my birth and in their deaths. They taught me that time doesn't change who you are in relationship to another. When you are loved, you are loved. That never goes away. Ever. It doesn't matter who you are. They also taught me that time can heal anything if you allow it to. Because of them, I don't have very much hurt left in my life. In fact, just thinking about them makes me smile. They taught me to have joy in my life right now where I am and most of all, they taught me to not let a moment go by when you have an opportunity to do something. If it presents itself, take it. Go for it. Jump in. The time may never come again. It may, but it may not. Especially when it comes to love. Their deaths taught me about heartbreak.

So at 52, today, I am feeling a bit like an orphan. I have decisions to make and feel alone in making them. Sometimes, I don't know where to turn or what to do. Even with the benefit of a partner, it all can still seem daunting. I mean, how did my parents do it? What was their secret? How did they know? Is it because I am not a parent that I haven't developed my stealth decision making skills? Or is it just because I am, as one of my dear friends calls me, "a peace loving flower child" that prevents me from zeroing in on what to do next?

I know I walk by faith most of the time. I know that I sit and listen to what it is that God tells me to do; I walk through open doors and see the path laid out in front of me. I know that in a world that prides itself on all of the toys we can collect, my life through some eyes often looks like failure. For others it is a thing to marvel. In my eyes, most days it is perfectly fine, but then being a silk purse out of a sow's ear kind of girl, makes everything seem pretty rosy. In the world of rampant consumerism, this can sometimes be a very hard path to walk. I often wish there were another equally beautiful path to meander along. I am reminded of a passage from Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,..." And I agree with Kid President, who when talking about this says, "And it hurt man!!" My path, although unlike the one he describes as full of rocks and glass sometimes feels littered with other stuff like, emotions, challenges, pitfalls, people even. And yes, walking along this untraveled path sometimes hurts.

So, today - and maybe it just is today - I am longing for that older voice of reason, the one which I trust to hear me and ask just the right questions to set me on my way. I want that comforting voice. That person who could tell me at 17 to be OK with the fact that my girlfriend was leaving me because even though I didn't understand at the time, I would have a lot of loves before it was all said and done. I want that voice that listened in earnest at 48 and then just simply asked me, "So, what are you going to do?" Or the one who told me repeatedly until I finally got it in my late 20s to stop worrying so much about every little thing because I was going to worry myself to death. I would even give anything just to hear the one that said, "OK. Move over," when he decided I had hugged him enough. I'd be grateful for the one who told me I could no longer come home after I had run away for maybe the fourth time and who later told me that was one of the hardest things she had ever done.

I long for these voices to guide me and to help me through these things I am concerned about, to help me see with their wisest of wisest minds and crystal clear discernments. I want those things, but even as I am writing this, I know it has not always been the truth. My parents did not always have the right answers for me. I was a child who marched to my own drum. I was a kid who never really was like everyone else. There was always something a little off. As an adult I am OK with my quirky eccentricities. I revel in them in fact, but my parents struggled with that notion that I would not fit into any box. I always colored outside of the lines. They did their best with me. Yet, even as I write this I am reminded though that my parents for all of their responsibilities and knowledge had their own limitations created by the very nature of being a parent - time: my parents could only see as far as their lifetimes would allow them to see. Kahil Gibran in On Children puts it very well: "You may give them your love but not your thoughts, / For they have their own thoughts. / You may house their bodies but not their souls, / For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, / which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

So, I sit here sighing and getting over my self-imposed momentary pity party. I know that there are things I just won't know until I know them. There are decisions I will make and won't know if they are right or wrong until the outcome. Everyone has that in common. We make our best decisions and then stick by them or we don't. Inevitably, we will see what the decisions yield. As for the rest of this grown up thing, I can hear my parents voices in some far off distant time of the past telling me to stop worrying, asking me what is it I am going to do, letting me know that whatever the outcome it will be OK and that although I don't know it yet, there will be other decisions to make and get right before all is said and done.

So, I will do what my parents did and what theirs did before them. I will listen to my christ-mind and make the best decisions I can. I will figure out what needs to be done and do it. And I will somehow take joy in knowing that I am fortunate to be the product of five very loving souls who all contributed as best as they could to the wisdom I now hold at 52. Maybe, that's their input. Maybe, I really am not alone in this thing as much as I think I am. Maybe, just maybe they have given me all I need to be the grown up I was born to be...and then some. Maybe that's all that any of us can really ask for.

Robin G. White is an author, educator and publisher who believes that the world is round.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I have spent my summer "stuck" in a Boston suburb. It doesn't really matter which one, though does it, because it is New England. Ever changing. Home of the scrod, cod and the Cape. It is New England, the "If you don't like the weather then walk a mile or wait a minute" life. It is New England, funny accents, ridiculous colloquialisms and ever changing scenery. It is a constant flow of transformation, a constant state of flux, given to the unexpected. It is a place you learn early not to lean against, but instead to ride with the tide. So it is that I spent two months in my beloved weather changing, tide ebbing and flowing, transformational New England home fidgeting, anxious, and pushing back at the very nature I have learned to flow with. Frustrated, angry, disappointed and down right pissed off at the circumstances that kept me from leaving Greater Boston for the much more subtle southern clime of Metropolitan Atlanta, I stepped around one road block after another, battle-scarred, bruised and tired. I kicked. I screamed. I hollered. I did that of course, until it hit me. Are you stuck, really? Or is this some place you really want to be. Honestly, what is your true intention?

I am not a transplant, you see. I am a New England girl to my heart of hearts. I don't often admit that. It kind of seemed strange growing up for a black girl like me, but truth be told, I just am a bona fide New Englander. Chalk it up to my Irish bloodline that focuses on the beauty in the nature of things, but I totally dig the way the seasons change here. Summer is truly summer: a welcomed respite from the frigid winter and wet spring. Fall is truly fall. Spring may come late or early, but it is clearly punctuated by the fragrant colors of hyacinth and lilacs - definitely lilacs. The way the crocus push up their soft little heads through that hard black frozen earth always amazes me in the same way that whips of yellow forsythia blossoming against plumes of white snow flakes always takes my breath away. We New Englanders are hearty, steadfast, ready for any storm, prepared to hunker down with a hearty bowl of stew in front of the wood burning stove. After all, winter blizzards are a reason to talk about the weather, nothing more.

Because I am a writer, my discussions inevitably wind their way around to New England weather. Like the way the fog rolling in brings with it the taste of salt on your lips, or how the cool air feels on your bared skin and the sharp odor of fish riles against your nostrils. Immediately, it conjures images of low white picket fences, sentinels guarding soft green lawns aproned before clapboard cottages grayed by the ocean breezes and mottled and battered by the harshest winters. It recalls summer oceans, teeming with crabs and bluefish, steaming husks of corn and lobsters crawling and clawing for life in large boiling pots. It brings to life the rocking fishing trawlers, noisy engines breathing smoke, nets astern, the leather-skinned muscled crew headed out to sea in the purple-gray dawn, the glimmer of first light beckoning gulls, terns and herons. It is all so very simple in all its complexity.

So it was that I stopped railing against the tides after a while. Took note of the fact that all of the bitching and complaining wasn't going to get me anywhere any sooner. That the time I spent fussing, arguing, being disappointed, would be better spent resting, cooking, reading, watching movies and walking the puppies to the favorite spots along the river, the lake, the beaches and take in all of this New England I love so much. I got ice cream cones just because, downed my weight in mussels and clams, took in the vast array of cultural culinary delights, sushi, dolmas, curry, channa, bacalao and of course, lobster and tended to the garden. Daily I picked kale, basil, green beans, lettuce, chard and sorrel. I made salads, and juiced and learned about green lemonade from a cousin. I spent time with friends, wrote poems, and met new people on Facebook. I helped a few folks with their writing projects even as I worked on mine and looked for new jobs to do. I took time to stroll through fields, pick its bounty, cook it, serve it, photograph it and post it on Facebook! I slept in the evening  breeze as the sea air wafted in through my window and covered my down quilt with a salty cool. I collected shells, rocks and sea glass. I talked to strangers over cups of coffee in every shop I could stop in.

Every time I thought about pushing against the tide, the tide would push me back until I stopped fighting and remembered to go with the flow. See, it isn't really that we learn something new about ourselves in these lessons that keep tripping us up and challenging us in life. It is that we relearn what we already know and then appropriately use it for our highest good. Riding the tide is as easy as grabbing a boogie board and jumping right on in. Catch the biggest wave and ride it as far as the flow will take you. It may be a short ride, a rough one, a long or smooth one. Who knows? You just have to get in and see where it takes you. You have to let go of what you expect it to be and just let it be. Just go with the flow!

I have to admit there were things I missed by not rushing off to Atlanta. An overnight at the Aquarium complete with dinner, jazz, cocktails and breakfast in the morning, a night-long spa day at Jeju, a panel discussion about what it means to be who I am in the skin I'm in, and a little more time with my awesome new roommate. I also missed spending summer watching movies and hanging with my really cool eight-year-old goddaughter. It is all good though. Things have this way of balancing out. 

Fall is moving in early in New England and hard as it is, I am headed back to the warm south I so love. I will watch the movies with the godchild when they come out on video. My roommate and I will move into our new house where I will create wonderful dinners with jazz and cocktails and who knows, maybe breakfast in the morning. I will catch up with friends and laugh during night-long sessions at Jeju. I will lovingly tell them how black earth gives way to small, but strong and hearty crocus and that forsythia yellows briefly herald the coming spring. And I will remember that gulls, terns and herons innately know what each of us should already know: no matter what the situation seems to be, if we are in darkness, we got there from the Light and it will always eventually be Light again. All we have to do is go with the flow and we'll see it. At least, that's how we do it here in New England.

Robin G. White is an award-winning author and publisher who works with first time authors to ensure their economic empowerment through education and publishing. She is the author of several books including the award-winning Resurrection: A Collection of Work, Reflections of a Life Well Spent, First Breath and the forthcoming, Omphaloskepsis Guided Writing Journal and Omphaloskepsis Daily Affirmations in addition to several others. In 2014, she will open a writing and spiritual retreat center, The Guilbault Young Center for Manifestation as a way to provide creatives and spiritualists a place to develop the work they are ordained to do. She is the co-founder of We Can, We Care her family's organization that supports the creation of orphanages and schools on the continent of Africa. She is the founder of a non-profit organization that enlists creatives of all stripes in the fight against extreme poverty through artists' performance and grant-making to community-based grassroots organizations that serve children in the areas of education, shelter and food justice. She values her work in service to others. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer.

It is a crisp Spring morning in April and the world is still waking. The sun is up, the woodpeckers are busy as are the chirruping squirrels and the honking geese. I coax the pups outside with me and sit on the steps and enjoy the view of the distant river teeming with life as I quell the complex conversations of my busy mind. This is my life. A dichotomy of calm serenity and constant swells of anxiety, nervousness and just plain old feeling awkward. I am at times such an odd duck in my own feathers so easily ruffled that I seldom know what is real, what is good, what is OK and what is not. I live increasingly in a world in my head that I sometimes honestly don't know what to say, how to interact or just how to play well with others. I think at some level I have always been this way. It is what the Buddhists would call my "monkey mind" that place of uncontrolled, spiraling out of control thought and confusion.  My response is to nestle in protected solitude with my oddities and eccentricities in a narrowing exclusion of others. It is both unnerving and comforting. This too is the real me, the one who is at constant battle with the outgoing, gregarious, affable being who inhabits the real world and who walks among the living. I am fighting my inner recluse and it feels sometimes like a losing battle. The more I set out into brave new worlds, the more I want to retreat from them and the ways these experiences change and shape me. I am resisting the vulnerability of transformation.

It isn't easy for any of us who are starting over again after the myriad hardships that befall us in a lifetime. We search for new meaning as we pick up and begin marching down unchartered pathways only to find ourselves at the juxtaposition of what we once knew as our lives and what we are meandering into as new territories. At each turn there are bright beautiful experiences that excite and entice and hold promise, new people to get to know, new problems to solve, new opportunities to embrace and for each one we try, there are old heartaches and remnants of pain not yet gone threatening the landscape we hope to explore. How do we navigate these new places in our lives, wear these new clothes over indelibly inked experiences? Let's face it: some things you just can't shake off, and others you can't erase without help. Even the most astute of us who venture into therapy, counseling or even self-help know that sometimes the only way the old painful stuff surfaces is when it bumps up against someone else's old painful stuff at the new job, the new living situation, the new friendship, partnership, relationship. Sometimes you just don't know until you know. Sometimes when you do know, it's because you've found out the hard way and blown the new job, the new place, the new friendship, partnership or relationship because the hidden stuff unexpectedly surfaced. Part of self awareness is knowing that this may happen and that can be half the battle won.

Despite being semi reclusive I have set my intention to walk through open doors. It is both a freeing and exhilarating process while being one which could be marked with great trepidation. Let's face it, change and the risk that comes with it are not easy undertakings. Yet, I have learned and embraced the knowledge that everything happens for our Highest Good despite what appearances may seem. It is truly my faith which keeps me moving forward. I know unequivocally that something good will come out of whatever I experience. Even the most painful experiences hold promise. This understanding helps me break free from the painful stuff I have encountered over my lifetime, some of the uglier lessons of which I unwittingly and often unconsciously still embrace. Every moment is a life lesson, granted some of them I would rather not have, but they become necessary pieces of the painting of my life. While I may long for the unmarred or at least less disturbed canvases of my youth, the reality is my life is a series of paintings some lovely some not so much, each one more detailed than the last. It is this one I am in that I am working on with forethought, intention, clarity and a better working relationship with my Co-creator. Through this experience, I have become increasingly self aware and am making the self corrections necessary to create the beautiful life I seek. As I observe others I am grateful to learn from their shared experiences. 

One of my friends spoke recently about her desire to slow down in a developing attraction in her life. She exhibited a self awareness that can only be appreciated. She knew where her triggers were and where she might be vulnerable and volatile. Another friend was taking months to house hunt, not just because she couldn't find the "right" place, but because she really wanted to understand the communities where she was seeking to live. She wanted to understand how she would move in and through these places; what she might find when she got there, not just logistically, but in ways which were fulfilling and meaningful. One recent conversation revealed a friend's inner turmoil, "If they only knew," she responded when someone commented on her calm and peaceful demeanor. She is keenly aware of her inner chaos and conflict and how it might impact and inform the world around her. So she chooses calm and works through the issues that surface in other less volatile ways. I admire these women for the work they have done around acting with intention and in choosing the lives they wish to lead in the ways they wish to lead them. Their conscious choices and deliberate actions have reduced the crazy making that happens for a lot of us who often fly by the seat of our pants. That isn't to say that what they choose is not a difficult path or that they don't have challenges. It just means that their challenges don't manifest the dilemmas some of us create in our lives. And let's be clear; we do create them.

I am an unfinished masterpiece. I am highly aware of the rich brush strokes my Creator has given me. I know there are a lot of details left to fill in and when I am completed I hope that many will gaze upon the Master's brilliance in awe and wonder. In the meantime though, I continue to figure out how to move with intention in my own life, how to become the person I so long to be and better integrate those parts of me that feel crazy and sane, difficult and easy, curious and knowledgeable, vulnerable and open, awkward and confident. I pray I haven't missed too many opportunities to relieve me from my self-imposed retreat. I am learning how to be gentler with me and as one of my friends often says, "How to teach others to treat me." I'm not easy, but I'm not that difficult either. Like many of us of a certain age, I have war wounds, battle scars and occasional minefields that can really mess up the lovely picture I create for myself if I let them. The key is in understanding that they are there and that they have potential to be something other than what I would choose. I fully believe in the possibility of a beautiful life because of the war wounds rather than despite them.

The pups are snoring softly now; full of fresh morning air and breakfast we will take the walk to the river. I will laugh at the busy beaver, wave to the rowers, giggle at the gaggle of geese, greet the joggers and dog walkers we pass and continue in my quiet contemplation. I'd really like to get this right. So, I continue to fight that desire to go in and close the doors behind me while watching the world from across a windowsill. I stand in this place of open and reflective vulnerability, take risks and hopefully learn from my missteps. I will work on my self judgments and remember that we are all masterpieces in various states of completion and that being unfinished simply means I am still alive in a life worth living. Mostly, I will continue as I walk through open doors and quiet my monkey mind to be in awe of each of these vast experiences, take in from them whatever they bring: joy, peace, love, happiness, lessons and embrace it all joyfully. Change, they say is constant. I say, it is growth and it is all good.

Robin G. White is the author of two published collections of poetry, the award-winning, Resurrection: A Collection of Work and  Reflections of a Life Well Spent and one collection of erotica, First Breath. She has authored The Omphaloskepsis Guided Writing Journal, an eBook, When Love Departs: Writings of Transition, is completing her first collection of short fiction, Intersections, and her memoir, One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, a collection of love poems, Bois Like Gyrls, a healing collection of transformational poetry, Metanoia and is editing a family collection of writings about Faith Hope and Love called, These Three Things. In addition she is the pseudonymous author of seven children's books. Her work is widely anthologized. She is educator and a speaker on the power of faith and transformational living. She resides in the Greater Boston area.