Girl Talk: Finding and Filling Our Empty Places

The Greatest Love of All
Image via Wikipedia

Whitney Houston has been dead a week, and I find myself wondering, still, if she was not like so many of us women: empty of the kind of love we crave.

Why is it that so many of us end up with people who are not good for us or to us? We are not with these people under duress: we choose and stay with people who do us emotional harm, who damage our already frail inner selves, and for what?

I guess men do it, too, but it seems like we women do it more. It seems that the worse we are treated, the harder we hold onto the person who is treating us so badly. We internalize blame for the reason we are being treated badly, and we decide that “if we can just” improve ourselves, do something better, that person whom we love so much will see the light …and there will be a “happily ever after” for us.

I am not saying that was the case with Whitney and Bobby Brown, but it just feels like, from the outside, that Whitney, for all her talent and beauty, had an emptiness inside of her that she was counting on Bobby Brown to fill.

Nobody can fill our empty spaces but ourselves.

It is ironic that Whitney sang the absolute notes off the pages when she performed “The Greatest Love of All,” but in the end, resorted to drugs to self medicate the inner pain she felt from that emptiness that too many people in general, but surely too many women feel.

Years ago, a woman came to my door in the middle of the night. She was bloodied all over her head; she was crying and shaking and said she needed help. I didn’t have to ask; I knew she had been beaten. I didn’t really know this woman, so I was afraid to let her in, but I finally offered to take her to the hospital. She didn’t want to go. She only wanted to talk. She wanted some water, and she wanted to talk, and talk she did, about this man of hers who “really was a nice guy.” As she talked, I couldn’t help but shudder at the sight of her injuries. I finally offered to call the police, but she said, “no. It’ll be OK. He just gets mad sometimes. I’m trying to be a better person…”

Though I had never been physically beaten, I had had my share of experiences with guys who were “really nice guys” but who were oppressive in their treatment of me. They didn’t have the problem; I did, because I took it. I was so interested in having a relationship that I accepted treatment that damaged my spirit. I, too, had been trying to be a “better” person.

I have to believe that we women will find ways to identify our empty places, and stare them down instead of running to or staying with people who will only exploit them. It baffles me that so many of us women are so love-starved that we latch onto people who mean us no good. I find myself wondering what it is we are being taught, even subliminally, as we are being raised. What is it that makes us doubt ourselves and be willing to compromise our very spirits for the sake of being in a relationship?

Certainly nobody wants to be lonely, but we should want to have quality lives while we are yet alive, and there is no quality of life when we are in relationships with people who exploit our personalities. We are looking for something and we are finding it, too often, in the wrong places and in the wrong people.

Kevin Costner said, in his remarks at Whitney Houston’s funeral, that she wondered if she was “good enough” as she auditioned for her part in “The Bodyguard.” She was “the voice,” for goodness’ sake! She was amazingly beautiful. She was smart…and still, she doubted if she was good enough. The “empty place” syndrome that plagues so many of us women plagued even her.

Kevin Costner said to Whitney, post-mortem, “Yes, Whitney, you were good enough.” Maybe that’s something we should say, as women, to ourselves, every day, no matter what we look like: no matter the color or length of our hair, the size of our hips, the number of mistakes we have made in our lives. Maybe we should say that we are “good enough” to ourselves, and in so doing, begin filling up our empty places so that we don’t depend on a human being to do what only we and God can do.

Just a painful…and candid…observation.

Doctors Getting Away with Murder

Cover of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcer...
Cover via Amazon

There is something wrong in America.

Prisons all over this country are filled, mostly with African-American men. The dramatic increase of arrests and incarcerations of African-American men coincided with President Ronald Reagan‘s “war on drugs,” and most of us Americans have smugly assumed that the war was declared in response to the appearance of crack cocaine in urban areas. According to Michelle Alexander, who brilliantly discusses disparities in incarceration between whites and blacks in her book, The New Jim Crow, the Reagan administration declared the war before crack cocaine began to ravage inner city neighborhoods, but used the spread of the drug to secure funds to carry out policies which exacerbated sentencing disparities.

The “war on drugs” led to policies that resulted an explosion in the penal population in this country, accounting for an increase from 300,000 inmates to over 2 million in less than 30 years, Alexander writes. The end-result is that this country incarcerates more people than any other developed country in the world.  Alexander writes that “the United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.” (p. 6)

But even as more and more attention is paid to those who use crack cocaine, more and more doctors are getting away with murder, prescribing pain and other medications that are no less damaging or dangerous than is crack. While the prison system is allowing legalized discrimination of African-Americans, American society is allowing legalized murder.

It has been said that Whitney Houston used crack; she herself said she used cocaine, but what we all know by now is that she used prescription meds, and was able to get them fairly easily. She apparently had doctors on both the East and West coasts, and in her room was found bottles of  Xanax, lorazepam, and valium – which are all benzodiazepines – as well as Ibuprofen, Midol and Amoxicillin.

I have heard doctors say that there is no way she should have been taking Xanax, lorazepam and valium at the same time. And the danger of her taking those drugs together was exacerbated by alcohol.

It is no secret that there is a double standard when it comes to crime and criminals; street drugs are looked down upon and those who use them are regarded as the dredge of society, while prescription drugs are acceptable. Go into any affluent neighborhood and it’s easy to hear people talk of the anti-anxiety drugs and pain meds they take regularly. It’s almost fashionable to take such drugs, and, contrarily, not fashionable not to take them. The people who are on prescription drugs not as criminals, though some get them illegally and “doctor shop” in order to satisfy their habits, and are socially accepted.

And who is getting away with supplying the drugs? The drug sellers or providers. On the streets, the drug pushers are labeled thugs by society, but in the suburbs, the drug pushers are called …doctors.

If America is going to have a “thing” about drug use, oughtn’t its concern be about all drug use?  I think of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and Keith Ledger, recent stars who died not because they used crack, but because the sophisticated drug pushers called doctors prescribed them the drugs they were demanding.

The rampant use of drugs –  on the streets and in affluent society – makes me wonder why it is so many of us need to self-medicate. Something, somewhere, has failed if so many people in a country where opportunity is so much more available than in other countries are so unable to cope with life. I have no idea about the pressures in the music and entertainment worlds that seem to lead so many people to a state of deep unhappiness, so deep that they cannot cope without medical help. At least, in urban areas, where men cannot get jobs, where poverty is rampant and there seems to be no way out, there appears to be a justifiable reason to want to escape…but what is it when one is “on top?”

Whatever the reason, my point is that since America is so interested in putting “bad” people away, and since we have more money pumped into building new prisons than we do in improving public schools, then room in the cells ought to be made for medical doctors who are violating the Hippocratic oath to “first, do no harm.” These doctors are “doing harm. They are getting away with murder, and they ought to be made to pay for it.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Less is More

Just Whitney
Image via Wikipedia

By now, most of us have gotten over our shock and dismay over the sudden death of Whitney Houston. An amazing and rare talent – a voice like no other – will never again make new music. That Houston’s later years of life were full of strife and addiction to drugs and alcohol, compromising her ability to share her amazing voice, will forever be a painful memory to many.

But in looking at countless images of Ms. Houston singing, I have noticed something: on stage, performing, she showed a consistent vulnerability to share herself, and she showed females, performers and otherwise, what class really is.

First, the vulnerability. I had no idea that one of Whitney Houston’s signature stage movements was “arms wide open.” Over and over, she can be seen standing at her microphone, moving her feet, tapping her microphone with her fingers …but at some point in her performance,opening her arms wide open…as if to say, “here I am! Receive me!”

That is a move as vulnerable as are arms folded across one’s chest a sign of being protective of one’s self. There is an openness in being vulnerable that, to me, invites love and power and passion and love into one’s soul. I had never noticed how often Houston did that “arms wide open” move, and it makes me wonder if her vulnerability was both one of her greatest blessings, and one of her greatest curses as well. People latch onto celebrities, but people really latch onto those who make themselves vulnerable.

Then, I noticed that Houston showed so much class in the way she dressed on stage. In an age where female performers show as much skin as possible, and work on perfecting the most sexy moves possible, Houston very often is seen in classy, beautiful elegant attire. She looks beautiful and sexy within that beauty. I hadn’t noticed it before. My mother, a wise soul though she died young, would always say that a woman ought to make people (especially men) wonder a little. I thought of that as I looked at her, looking demure yet fashionable, pretty and beautiful yet sexy, all at one time. It was like her statement was, “All I am here to do is sing.” And sing she did. To be fair, she acknowledged she was not a good dancer; perhaps if she had been she would have dressed differently; she would have had to.  But as she was, she was a class act.  An “arms wide open” class act.

Even when she sang The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 2001, she was …classic Whitney. A white athletic-looking warm up suit with a white head band …that was all…and there she was again,singing her heart out, eyes bright and sparkling, smiling and sharing, it seemed, her soul, with literally the whole world.

I am not a prude, but I do sometimes find myself wishing that young female performers showed a little less of themselves. It’s easy to get distracted if too much is showing, if there is too much “bumping and grinding” going on. The whole world doesn’t have to see everything, or nearly everything, God blessed one with.

Ironically, as I am writing this, I’m thinking that I don’t notice, or haven’t noticed, male performers going to the lengths that women do to “be” sexy. They just “are” sexy. They come out on stage and, like Whitney …just sing. They dance, some of them, but they are still far more suggestive (to me) than are the girls who come out almost flashing their God-given gifts.

Sigh. I’ll bet it’s just me. I’m just thinking, though, that I would rather see a talent come out on stage, “arms wide open,” dressed in a way that supports the talent being shared, not that detracts from it.

Chalk these old fogey thoughts up to a mother who always said, “less is more.”

I think she was right.

A candid observation …