The View from Here by Craig Ruvere

Thoughts about life, love and eveything in between.

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Piece by Piece – moving on from abandonment

When I first heard Kelly Clarkson’s song Piece by Piece, I found myself listening to it over and over again. I rarely define a style of music I listen to, mainly because I’m often attracted to amazing lyrics more than anything else. And Clarkson’s song certainly delivers. Here’s how her musical journey begins:

And all I remember is your back
Walking towards the airport, leaving us all in your past
I traveled fifteen hundred miles to see you
Begged you to want me, but you didn’t want to

It’s the real-life story of Clarkson’s absentee father, and how her husband eventually was able to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and reaffirm there are still men out there who know how to be caring; know how to be fathers.

Her rendition on American Idol last year was filled with honest emotion, and watching it is enough to make anyone a little teary eyed (I know I was) – and so was famed country singer and Idol judge Keith Urban.

When asked about the song by US Magazine she replied, “I’m 33 years old, I’m a grown woman. But it’s more of that thing where you can try your hardest to salvage relationships – and I did – but at the end of the day, if you keep getting hurt by someone because they just don’t know how to properly love people, it’s just not worth it.”

I believe Clarkson’s song resonates with me due to my own feelings of abandonment by my father – a man I once considered the best man I knew, my constant champion and a friend always there to listen and offer constructive advice. And like Clarkson, you try and salvage whatever you can from the relationship, raised with an understanding that they are your parents and deserve your respect. But at the end of the day, we all deserve to know we are loved without conditions – a parent most especially should know how to provide that. Her song concludes:

Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I would never leave her like you left me
She will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you I’m gonna put her first
He’ll never walk away
He’ll never break her heart
He’ll take care of things
He’ll love her
Piece by piece
He restores my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father should be great

But time has a way of softening the anger. And much like Clarkson, I’ve been very lucky to have someone stand by me all these years, picking up the pieces and reminding me there are people out there who know how to love; know how to offer compassion; know how to put the pieces back together again so we can move on with our lives. Those are the people to surround yourself with through all of life’s journeys.

For all those people who take such unwavering care of our hearts – thank you. And thank you Miss Clarkson for sharing your personal story with all of us – your song is truly an inspiration.

Songwriters: GREGORY KURSTIN, KELLY CLARKSON. 
Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Nelly – why should your fans have to pay your taxes?

An important news bulletin.

It appears that rapper Nelly (singer of the 2002 hit “Hot in Herre”) has been a bad boy and now is in trouble with the government for not paying his taxes.

But fear not! His adoring fans are coming to his rescue. They’ve started a social media campaign urging everyone to stream his song on Spotify – the more the song is streamed, the more money Nelly will make to bail himself out of debt.

Are you serious?

I can’t tell you how infuriated this makes me, especially given the fact that so many misguided individuals are championing this cause to help out the popular rapper.

I’m reminded of a quote by Criss Jami:

“Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”

Children who have nothing and find themselves homeless deserve our charity.

Animals who are abused and left for dead on street corners deserve our charity.

Nelly does not.

He made his choices and should have to pay for them just like the ordinary people who are now pathetically streaming his music would have to.

While Nelly himself might have nothing to do with this social campaign, he should have the common decency to tell his adorning fans to stop – that this is not their problem to worry about. That he appreciates all their support, and the millions he’s already made from them, but he’ll find a way to settle his personal debts.

Habeeb Akande once remarked, “The difference between greed and ambition is a greedy person desires things he isn’t prepared to work for.”

You’ve made your money Nelly. And just like the millions of Americans who earn considerably less than you do, paying your taxes is the law. You’ve allowed greed to make you think you’re exempt from that reality. Guess what? You’re not.

Be a man…be an American…and finally do what’s right.

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Suicide – a decision you cannot change

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”Richard M. Nixon

Last week a 16-year-old girl committed suicide at the school where my wife teaches.

It was a complete and horrifying shock to her friends, who had no idea she was contemplating it, nor did they know of any apparent reason .

It was a complete shock to the faculty and staff, who just the day before were talking with her in the hallway – never once noticing anything peculiar or alarming.

And truly, it was a complete shock to me.

While I’ve experienced depression and days of darkness when I just wasn’t sure I had the strength to go on, I never felt compelled to end my life. The fact that a young 16-year-old girl just starting out in the world saw this as her only way out truly distresses me.

Perhaps what’s worse is there was no explanation for her death – no note or social post to reveal why it was she chose to end her life. And while she may very well be at peace, those around her will forever be asking “why”, and unfortunately will never hear an answer.

Now having a young nephew who’s growing bigger, stronger and more independent each and every day (he’ll be 4-years-old in a few months) I look at him and pray for a future filled with love and light and hope in a world that’s often difficult to navigate through.

The thing is that’s what everyone dreams of for the children they love. But we can’t control what happens as they go out into the world and deal with the challenges of bullying and stereotypes; insecurities and acceptance. All we can do is provide them with enough unconditional love for them to know they will never be alone and can always find solace in the comfort of our presence.

Sally Brampton is the author of Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression. In it she says, “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.” 

Many of understand what it means to have a long, hard struggle to stay alive. They’ve fought the fight, tried their best not to give up, and yet sometimes in the end such a victory is just beyond their reach.

All we can really do is support our children, to let them know that they’re loved no matter what they may choose to do or who they choose to be. We must never judge them or label them based on antiquated stereotypes – never forcing them to do or be what we want because it’s the more popular choice.

I’m not at all saying that this was absent from the young girl’s life I mentioned above, or that if it was it might have saved her from her eventual fate. The reality is that sometimes, many times, you never know the full breadth of a person’s struggle until it’s too late to do anything about it.

But why not be proactive and do everything you can to make sure your child understands what suicide is, what depression is, and teach them to talk to you before they make a decision they cannot change.

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Amending familial relationships can be hard

“It’s not a person’s mistakes which define them – it’s the way they make amends.” 
― Freya North

I have cousins on my mother’s side, whom I haven’t seen in over 30 years.

While some familial relationships experience such absences based on geographical location or the expansion of sub-families, mine seems to have more dramatic undertones, rather than a logical reality.

Without airing out all my dirty laundry, there was a supposed “falling out” between members of the family – details of which have been the subject of speculation for years, but never fully revealed to me. I was around eight-years-old when this all occurred.

And while I fully understand how turmoil inside the family can quickly divide people against each other, for me there’s still that little eight-year-old boy wondering what happened.

I was very close to my cousins – three older boys, whom I always looked up to as the youngest. I can still remember playing superheroes with light up swords and capes, or with the massive train set they had constructed in a small room off their basement.

Now sitting here almost three decades later, I find myself wondering what my life would be like if they had remained an active part of it.

And while there’s isn’t much you can do as a young child, as an adult you can try to find your own answers – try and make amends as best you can for situations you may or may not have had any involvement in.

And so, after much researching, I found my aunt and one of my cousins through Facebook. For weeks I did nothing with the discovery, worried about the unknowns surrounding the original severing of our relationship. But then I read this quote by Shannon L. Alder:

“Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person’s life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you.” 

This seemed like my chance.

And so I reached out to both of them with a heartfelt message not looking for answers, but rather to say how unfortunate it was that whatever had happened led to the demise of our relationship.

I’m not going to lie in confessing that I assumed this might very well be my Hallmark-movie moment – where families are reunited after years of strife in under two hours. But sadly, it wasn’t meant to be it seems. Over a month has passed since I sent that message, and I’ve been greeted with nothing but silence.

I’ve always been a big proponent of making amends – even when it may not be completely your fault. I say that because relationships are incredibly hard to foster and almost impossible to replace once they’ve disappeared.

And while time definitely allows you to amend for the actions which haunt you, the longer you wait the greater chance such an action will fall on deaf ears. Don’t let your pride prevent you from reaching out to someone. While you may not always get a response, at least you made an effort to set things right.

Steve Carell once said, “I think in most relationships that have problems, there’s fault on both sides. And in order for it to work, there has to be some common ground that’s shared. And it’s not just one person making amends.”

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Guilt can be a useful tool in moderation

“When you are guilty, it is not your sins you hate but yourself.” – Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom

I grew up in an Italian-American family, and if there’s one thing Italians know how to do well it’s guilt each other.

I try not to play that card in my personal life – having lived through enough of that drama for the majority of my life.

But today my Italian heritage was shining through. I was trying to make a point – trying my best NOT to play the card hidden up my sleeve. But after much going back and forth with little to no progress, I embarrassingly played the guilt card.

For a moment I felt like my mother – overdramatizing the situation in order to get the reaction I was looking for. Did it work? Maybe. But afterwards I felt like a complete hypocrite – using tactics I swore I would try not to use in order to achieve a desired result.

In order to defend my actions I began to ask myself, “is there ever a time when guilting someone is okay?” Honestly, I think the answer is yes. Now hear me out.

Sabaa Tahir once said, “There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”

I suspect many of us fall into the first category – drowning until we’re useless. We realize what we’re doing is wrong and even disrespectful, but instead of propelling us to do good, it cripples us into doing nothing.

Instead we make excuses to counteract our guilt. We use words like “I can’t” in order to prevent us from having to feel any and all kinds of compassion – choosing quite selfishly to focus on ourselves.

Utilizing guilt as a common practice in your relationship is never healthy and will only lead to its demise at some point. But on rare occasions, it can be a powerful tool to remind someone that life is about thinking of others more than just yourself. Something that “fires your soul to purpose” and forces you to make a decision rather than procrastinating with the words “I can’t”.

I’m unsure if my words today will have any affect at all, but sometimes they need to be said to those who aren’t all that interested in listening.

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