Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Tag: community

Maya Angelou has died. Death will not stop her life.

Mother Maya Angelou 1928-2014

My colleague Shaunelle Curry from Media Done Responsibly published a copy of her tribute to Maya yesterday. She inspired me to write my own tribute

I sat out under my oak tree yesterday afternoon with a book of her poems and pulled out phrases from some of my favorites to remember her words, her spirit, her power.  She birthed most of the phrases below. I collected them and adapted them to honor her memory. May the Spirit that inspired her to rise above adversity, become stronger through the things that pressed her down, live on in all of us who were fed by her life.

Thank You Mother Maya

Mother Maya has passed. Her daughters born through words gather to mourn. Red, yellow, black and white, all precious sisters, daughters in her light, gather round to say  “Thank you Mother Maya.”

Thank you for fierceness and vulgarity and letting it all hang out, for caged birds singing and dancing like you had diamonds at the meeting place of your thighs.

Thank you for the click of your heels, the bend of your hair, the palm of your hand.

Thank you for the sun of your smile, the ride of your breasts, the grace of your style.

Thank you for tears, now powdered black like dust in ashes, black like Buddha’s belly, black and hot and dry, crying for your sons and daughters.

Death has taken you by the hand, but because of mercy you live on.

Now angels gather, hosannahs tremble, harps sound:

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

You, Mother Maya, coming through the door!

On Wednesday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be at the Laurie Hendricks Gallery in South Pasadena for a screening  and panel discussion of Long Live L.A. – a series of artists’ videos addressing the public health crisis. If you’re interested in the intersections of health and art, how media can change lives for the good, or looking for ways to engage, educate and inspire health in yourself and your community, I’d love to have you join me!

Long Live L.A. was originally commissioned by Freewaves and broadcast on L.A. Metro  County buses during February and March 2014. With 70% of health care spending going towards diseases that are preventable through lifestyle changes, finding new and culturally relevant ways to educate people and inspire good health is an important part of the solution. Art is a fabulous way to access our “WHY” for taking care of ourselves in ways the written word alone cannot.

Six of the original videos will be screened followed by a panel discussion about how artists can contribute to public dialogue about health while educating people who might not be reached through traditional formats. Maybe I’ll see you there!

1504 Mission Street, South Pasadena, 91030

Last month Chloe Sun at Asian American Women on Leadership posed the question, “How do you let others know who you are without coming across as self-promoting?”  She noted that, as leaders of various ministries and organizations, we must promote our causes and invite others to join us. Publicizing and being a spokesperson for what we’ve given our lives to is part of the job.

My passion is helping Christian women love themselves as we love God and others. Thirty years of ministry and clinical work shows me that while many excel at loving others and God, we often neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical health. Where did we learn this?  Not from the culture around us, but with encouragement from an unexpected source.

Growing up in Christian community, I often heard authorities challenge the concept of self-love. I especially remember an acronym taught at camp: How do you get JOY? From putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

Such thinking can arise when scripture verses like Philippians 2.3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” – are read outside of their fuller context, promoting a distorted view of self-care as secondary to caring for others.  When read at face value, such admonitions  seem to tell us that loving others means negating ourselves, thus encouraging our insecurity about being “too much”, taking up too much space and using too many resources.

Yet such insecurities are anything but loving. How is my playing it small and being afraid to step forward to share the good news of what God has taught me and is doing through me helping anyone?

An exposition of the biblical and theological meanings of love is beyond the scope of this post. My point is that when biblical texts or church teachings contribute to anxiety and self-neglect, we’ve clearly gotten the meaning wrong.

Love the Supreme Emotion

From a social sciences perspective, love is a sharing of positive emotional connection between people that elicits a desire to act in ways that support mutual well-being. When I “promote myself” in teaching a class or facilitating a retreat, I ooze with love. Few experiences give me as much positive emotion as supporting psychological, physical and spiritual well-being in others. Most often I feel that sense of positive connection among the entire group strengthen as we move through our time together. And we all leave with a stronger commitment to loving ourselves as we love others.

When our self-promotion comes from a place of love, then refusing to self-promote may be the most unloving thing of all. Letting others know who we are and inviting them to join our causes, participate in our programs or purchase our products and services is an act of love.

I’d love to support you in loving yourself as you love God and others. You can still sign up for “Self-Care through Mindful Awareness” this Saturday, March 22nd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in South Pasadena. I’d love to support you in loving yourself as your love others either this Saturday or at a future workshop, yoga class or retreat. Sign-up for my newsletter (lower right sidebar) to get updates.

Thanks to my sisters at AAWOL who originally published this blog on their website. If you like what you read here, consider following their blog also.

I wrote the following poem two years ago in response to Joyce Rupp’s Dear Heart Come Home: The Path of Midlife Spirituality. She says that midlife beckons us inward, to our depths where we come home to our “truest Self.” Much of my midlife journey revolves around letting go of the “Self” I thought I was and learning to just be present in each moment as life unfolds.

be faithful to the present moment

Midlife “crises” of all sorts invite us to let go: shed layers of identity along with jobs, relationships and possessions that no longer fit who we are discovering ourselves to be. Divorce, job loss, the proverbial “empty nest”, illness in ourselves or loved ones each become thresholds into the inner life where we discover a more authentic version of who we thought we were.  What appears as a crisis on the front end can become an opportunity if we choose to listen to our lives.

My friend Betsy is doing the hard work of listening to her life and sharing her discoveries through her blog. Her writings inspired me to pull my midlife poem out and share it here. I offer it with the prayer that regardless of your current stage of life, you will allow the obstacles and challenges of your life to become opportunities to deepen your connection to your innermost being–that place where you know you were born from love, made for love and that nothing you do can make your more lovable or less lovable.

Love is our truest Self.

My Midlife Soul – A Response to Joyce Rupp’s Dear Heart Come Home

She told me to toss away the old map.

She said it’s of no use where I’m going.

She says I must learn to travel by the stars that shine in the shadowy places within.

Maps charted by other’s travels no longer suffice.

Broad open roads that lead to a good life, a happy, successful life–now dead ends offering comfort and ease but going nowhere meaningful.

Those routes partially taken–directives for a productive, busy life that belonged to another season–also dead ends now.

The old maps fade as the fires of midlife burn away the dross of the self I thought I was, of the self I grasp backwards to remember, of the self I keep trying to resurrect along with remnants of borrowed dreams.

How will I ever find my way?

A light pierces the thick fog, beckoning me to come and see.

A song whispers of joy amidst suffering, of blessings born of ashes.

I join hands with the One who told me to toss the old maps away.

I will walk deeper into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, trust their guidance, and let their light be enough for me.”**

By Cissy Brady-Rogers, January 2012, with thanks to Joyce Rupp

**From Dear Heart Come Home, by Joyce Rupp

Please join me for a South Pasadena Community Special Event Screening and Community Discussion of the award winning documentary Miss Representation Monday, February 24, 2014 , at the South Pasadena Library.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Free Screening - South Pasadena Library, Monday February 24 5:30 p.m.

Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter as “A relevant and important doc[umentary] that deconstructs the insidious role of visual media in the widespread, unbalanced depiction of women and girls,” Miss Representation exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under- and mis- representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which makes it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

“How we think about ourselves helps to determine our sense of self-worth. Well-being is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Well-being is linked to how you feel about yourself and your life. We need to be increasingly mindful about the demeaning and sexualized images of women and girls that popular media promotes. This event will bring awareness to the source of these negative messages and jumpstart a much needed conversation in our community about self-esteem and political empowerment.” Marina Khubesrian, MD, FAAFP

The 90-minute film will be screened from 5:30pm-7pm followed by a dynamic discussion from 7pm-8pm facilitated by Cissy Brady-Rogers, LMFT, featuring expert guests Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media), Mayor of South Pasadena Dr. Marina Khubesrian;, SPHS Feminists Unite Club members Charlotte Foley, Mia Forman, Paige Valentine, Paige Forman, and Suki Sekula; Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media); Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah; Oliver Middelstaedt (USC student and featured in the film);, Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah and Shaunelle Curry (Media Done Responsibly).

The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Space is limited. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. While attendance of the screening is encouraged, it is not necessary for participation in the community discussion.

Press Release supplied by Healthy South Pasadena and Day One.

My guest blogger today is my beloved husband Dave Rogers. We lost our 9 year old Doberman Skye to a sudden onset neurological disorder yesterday. Skye was my friend, “baby” and a wise little teacher about listening to my body, being in the moment and loyalty, among other things. This is Dave’s tribute to our Little Skye Girl.

Clear Blue Skye in her Prime sitting on Dave's lap

RIP Skye, 2005 – 2014

I was the first to see Skye (at two weeks on the puppy monitor) and to meet her (at eight weeks). But it was clear from the moment they met that Skye was Cissy’s girl. The bond between them was instantaneous and permanent.

To Skye, I was merely Mr. Fun who would chase her around the yard — and The Slave, who got up in the middle of most nights so she could go out and pee (even though she really didn’t need to).

But Cissy was the center of Skye’s life. They relished every moment they spent together, whether on solo walks at Occidental College or long love sessions on the rug in Cissy’s study. All you had to see was the look in Skye’s eyes to know that Cissy was her treasure.

In many, many ways, Skye was the perfect dog. She required virtually no obedience training. She was the perfect walker and smart as a whip. She was mellow when mellow was appropriate, crazy when it was time for craziness. She loved meeting people and her gentle face and manner reassured even shy little folks. The only imperfect thing she did was leave us too early.

Rest in peace, Skye.

Legend comforting ailing Skye

While I was away on vacation a plague of mildew took over my summer squash. Most of the leaves were speckled with white powder and some were turning yellow and dying. But in spite of the attack the squash were still producing–so much so that when I offered my husband some steamed squash one night he replied “Squash again?”

Determination

Saturday morning I went out with my clippers to assess the damage, prepared to tear it all out and begin planting for fall. But buried beneath the sea of mildew I discovered strong new shoots making their way towards the sun, determined to keep producing in spite of obstacles!

I went to work. I thinned out the damaged branches, cut everything back to the vine, tidied up the dead leaves, freed the new growth from potential contamination and opened them up to reach toward the light.

Humans and plants share the same basic growth instinct to fulfill our destiny. All God’s creatures great and small come equipped with everything we need to thrive. But, like the mildew that keeps the squash from flourishing, many life factors inhibit our innate potential to become all we were created to be. We all bump up against both internal barriers (character defects, defenses, limitations) and external obstacles (unhealthy relationships or workplaces, accidents, losses of all sorts that we can’t control).

Even the most determined among us weren’t intended to grow alone. Like gardens, we need the support of loved ones to overcome the many forms of dis-ease and dysfunction that inhibit our growth. We access the support of others within the broader community. We come alongside one another, helping each other prune back the diseased leaves, find the right combination of nutrients and light to make us strong and steady.

The determination of my plants to keep producing in spite of obstacles inspires me! I loved discovering the new life beneath the sad old leaves. And it gave me joy to prune away the old growth so the new could flourish.

Help!

Living from within, following your soul, being true to your deepest calling–whatever you call it it–depends on both personal determination and willingness to let others help. Habitually in the caregiver role, like many of the women I work with, learning to ask for and accept help has been a lifelong lesson.

Yesterday I sent out an email to a group of my soul sisters requesting prayer for wisdom regarding my work. I’m determined to share my unique understanding about health, spirituality and transformation with others. And, I need support in doing so.

How about you? What are you determined to do in this season of your life? Who will you ask for support?

Yesterday I passed my semi-annual breast exam with an “all’s clear” from the doctor!

Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to my own good choices over the past twenty years!

Hereditary and genetic predisposition for diseases like cancer can’t be altered–although researchers in the fields of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are working on it–but how we live each day significantly impacts our risk. Research indicates that where we live, what we eat & drink, the quality of our relationships, how we manage stress, exercise and many other choices we make each day profoundly affect disease onset as well as our ability to recover.

An Example of Self-Neglect

Growing up with a mother who neglected her health gave me a good example of what not to do.

Moira Diedre Ford & Moira-Cecily Brady 1983

A diagnosis of breast cancer in her sixties did little to change her lifestyle. In fact, even after a second round of breast cancer followed by lung cancer a few years later, she smoked her Virgina Slim cigarettes right up until her last days of life.

In her last weeks of life she was confined to bed and on respiratory assistance. Yet, several times a day she’d rally the energy and strength to get out to her balcony for a smoke lest she blow up the entire house by lighting up in the vicinity of the oxygen tanks!

Mom had courageously overcome other addictions but remained a slave of nicotine until her final breath. Sadly, her cigarettes were her “precious” delight, her tonic for what ailed her, what she valued more than life itself to some degree.

Addictions do that to us. The immediate gratifications of soothed anxiety, numbed pain, and avoided interpersonal conflicts, lure us into a state of forgetfulness about our deepest values and highest aspirations.

Waking Up to My Own Need for Self-Care

My breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 woke me up to the way I’d been using alcohol to cope with mom’s dying. It was painful to visit her. My arrival was often her excuse for a smoke. “Help me up and we’ll have a visit on the balcony” she’d say with both a genuine gladness to see me and a sense of relief that she could get her fix. The last six months of her life I’d often pick up a six-pack on my way to visit and nurse a beer while she smoked her cigarette. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Six weeks after her death I received my wake up call. “Early stage…micro-invasive in-situ breast cancer…less than 5% chance of occurrence…” — none of that mattered. To me, it was cancer. And my early research indicated a correlation between alcohol use/overuse/abuse and breast cancer. Having watched my mom make poor choices for her own health, I choose a different path.

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

My mother was an amazing woman whose life inspired me in many ways. Her intelligence, humor, generosity, charm and diversity of friendships with men and women from all walks of life are gifts that continue to inform my development. I am forever grateful for those blessings.

Today, I also give thanks for the twisted blessings of her imperfections. I saw the damage her midlife struggle with addictions did to her well-being as well as the ways it undermined my own adolescent development. I’m grateful that my wake up calls came in my young adult years and I had her life as a model of what I didn’t want to become. I’m grateful that observing the consequences of her self-neglect inspired me to make self-care a priority. I imagine my mom is delighted that I’ve chosen the path I have. And for that, I am also grateful.

A Daily Choice

To choose a different path than those we grow up experiencing takes courage, determination and support. If your models for self-care were less than optimal, let them become inspiration for choosing a more loving way for yourself.

Find new role models. Surround yourself with people who take care of themselves and you’re more likely to do so yourself. And beware of spending too much time with those stuck in cycles of self-neglect or destructive patterns. Behaviors are contagious.

Enlist your friends, family, co-workers to support you in better self-care. One of my coaching clients gathered a group of her co-workers for a lunchtime health coaching group that I’m facilitating. Another client joined a workout studio that builds community support for fitness by creating a family atmosphere among the members.

Self-care or self-neglect. Which will you choose today?