Monday, December 30, 2013

The Art of Living: Forget The Resolution; Dream Extreme

Not Cuba, but it's a start
Dream Extreme

            A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about the life of Diana Nyad and her XTREME DREAM to swim from Cuba to The U.S (Read More about Diana)

            I had heard about the amazing athlete and had seen footage of interviews with her after completing the incredible feat but to be honest with you, I had been like, “So what? Why do adrenalin junkies always have to rope me up in their amazing lives?”

I had no idea what I was talking about. I was misjudging the success of another, simply because it was something that I would not do.

As the documentary unfolded, I learned that as a child, Diana had suffered terrible and repeated sexual abuse. Her 35 year struggle to swim from Cuba to the U.S. was in part, a way to get rid of her shame and guilt about being violated.

Time after time she tried to complete the Xtreme Dream, and time after time she came closer and closer.

As the documentary unfolded, I learned several important things; that to do anything in life, we have to let go of the extreme defeat of our past and hold fast to our extreme dream.

For this you need a partner, a team, discipline, preparation, all of the tools necessary (you may even have to invent them yourself,) and most of all you have to keep believing.

This year, instead of a resolution; why not dream?

Take your heart and mind to the most wonderful place you can imagine. Make a list of the things that are keeping you for getting there and then take the necessary steps to arrive at your destination.

The only person you can change is you, but when you do, you light a pathway for others to follow.

Let go of the guilt and shame of your past, and dream.

I love you.

Be you, be well, be dreaming.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Art of Living: Christmas Reflections

Reflections: A Story of Christmas

            When I was a kid, I wished and hoped that Santa could be real. By the age of 5, I knew that he wasn’t. In a drunken rage brought on by poverty and hopelessness, my mother proclaimed for all to hear that there was no Santa, that she was the Santa and that Santa didn’t have a damn dime.

As cruel as this all sounds, it was a gift; one in a series of backwards proposals of motivation for the things to come.

Undeterred by the words of a woman who worked 12 hour shifts in a nursing home overcrowded with elderly patients with money but no memories, I somehow understood that my mother’s ability to believe had been stolen from her. Raising seven children on your own with little formal education or support will do that to you.

At night, I’d wish on the star outside my window. I wished that my mother would stop drinking, that I’d one day I’d have a father and that I would be able to leave that place and go to college.

“Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight,” I’d say the first part out loud but the wishes I kept to myself. My siblings would laugh and mock me, but I kept on wishing and I kept on praying.

Then one year, a man named Mr. John was sweet on my mother. That Christmas, I got my first real present. Before then, I’d get fruit and nuts, pajamas and underwear. There were new socks and if things were a bit better, my mother would be able to get us a sweater from Goodwill and maybe even a coat.

“Be grateful for everything,” my sober mother would say. “You have life and health; we are all together with a roof over our heads.”

The smell of turkey filled our home and I had expected more pajamas and underwear, but I was elated to see that my mom and Mr. John had gotten me the one thing I wrote down in a letter to Santa. I was 12 at the time but I still needed to believe.

There under the tree that had been purchased early that Christmas morning, “Cause they are cheaper that way,” was my red typewriter.

I wrote on it every day and prayed that Mr. John would hit one of the numbers he played, be my daddy and send me to college.

But as my mother would say, “If wishes were horses everybody would ride.”

Mr. John did something my mother didn’t like and she sent him away. The ribbon on my typewriter ran out of ink and I couldn’t get another one.

I stopped wishing and started working but I didn’t give up my dream.

My mother did stop drinking, and then one Christmas as a present, she stopped smoking too. A stranger named Terry Evenson became my benefactor and helped me go to college. I met him at my graduation, and from that day on, he became a father to me, and Pop-Pop Terry to my children.

He and my mother are gone; they died just one year apart. They are in that cloud of witnesses that I talk to each night when I look up at the stars.

This Christmas Eve, gather with your loved ones or call them on the phone. Tell them that you love them, that you are glad that they are well, under a roof, not hungry and healthy.

Give love to someone who wants it and lend a hand to someone who needs help.

Keep wishing, hoping and praying and never stop believing.

Be you, be well, be joy.

Bertice Berry, PhD.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Art of Living: Influence vs. Power (A Christmas Story)

Influence vs. Power (A Christmas Story)

I recently had a conversation with a one of the wonderful thought leaders from Linkage.(Read More about Linkage) 
We discussed the urgency for real power among women. She pointed out that we needed more women in board rooms and as CEO’s making the decisions that would positively affect other women’s lives.

I agreed, but I also knew that being in a board room or c-suite was not enough so I told her so.

“We need purpose,” I told her. She reminded me that she had done the research and found women tend to be much more purpose driven than men and I agreed, but that’s like saying that Bill Clinton is more black than Hillary Clinton.

She asked what I thought the answer to the power struggle would be and I told her about my graduate school housemate’s research.

Dr. Bernita Berry (seriously, we were both accepted at Kent State, the same year; they thought we were the same person) wrote a dissertation that must be studied by anyone concerned with power for women.

She looked at the triple jeopardy theory which argued that if you are woman, poor and black, then  you have the least amount of power in the US. Bernita added age to the pot and studied old, poor black women.

She was surprised and delighted to find that these women were anything but powerless. They determined the buying habits of 3 and sometimes 4 for generations of folks. They demanded respect in their communities and churches and even when everything around them was rundown, they were held in high regard.

When you look more closely at the research findings, what you have are women with influence.Though invisible to the dominant members of society; these women were the real stake holders and were shaping the future.

They were like the women of Bahia in Brazil; the Irmandade Boa Morte, or Sisterhood of the Good Death, who from the time of slavery until now secretly work to set the captive free.
These women were the folks in the Bill Withers song Grandma’s Hands.
Grandmas hands, soothed a local unwed mother. Grandmas hand played the tambourine so well. Grandmas hands used to issue out a warning; she’d say, baby don’t you run so fast, might fall on a piece of glass, might be snakes out in that grass, grandmas hands.”

The women used whatever they had to make a difference.

So here’s the Christmas part; Jesus Christ was not born into a powerful family with position and wealth and yet thousands of years later, his message of love and kindness has influenced the world. The message is so influential that others have tried to claim it as their own for power.

Today, if you feel that you have less than what you’d like to have; be it wealth, power or prestige, think of what you can do to influence others and make a difference.

Whose heart can you heal? Whose mind can you change? What difference can you make?

Be you, be well, be influential.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Art of Living: Why Not Start With Love?

Start With Love

As you are preparing your hearts and minds for the holiday season, I’d like you to consider love.

I know, I know, Christ is the reason for the season and you are putting him back into Christmas and all. So while you are decorating your Christ tree and shopping for Jesus’s presents, I’d seriously like you to consider love.

Last night as The Family ate dinner, the subject of love came up. Some thought that you should grow into love, while others said that you can fall into it quickly.

My nephew Robin pulled up a quote from a friend that read, “You only die once; you live every day.”

We pondered the thought and then my other nephew Nick asked, “What are we doing with our everyday? Are we loving enough?”

We thought about someone’s grandmother and decided to simply call her. It was the love she needed to get through the night. My niece talked about her recent break-up and so we assured her that she was beautiful and wonderful, then we told her that we loved her.

One of my nieces (I know I have a lot---I'm so loved) had an online class to go to and so we gave her the love she needed to endure something that she didn’t want to do and continued in love.

“Why wait to fall into love,” someone asked, “Why not start there?”

I love (get it) this radical approach to a life that get to do every day. What if I decided to love my new doctor, before my foot has healed? What if I loved my neighbors and coworkers as Christ (you know the dude that Christmas was named after) told us to.

We start with skepticism, jealousy and fear, but love is none of those things. We walk around demanding that someone earn our respect and admiration even when they have not done anything for us to deny it.
We live a life of “prove to me that you are worthy”, when Jesus said you already are.

Why not start with love?
When I love someone, I am less judgmental.

When I love someone; I am much more forgiving.

When I love someone; I am much more kind.

When I love someone; I am less likely to hate my own self.

Start with love and you will start your new life right.

Be you, be well, be loving

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Art of Living: Seeing Things As Though They Are

Seeing Things As Though They Are

I’m still reveling in the celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela. More than a few folks wrote to tell me that they too were moved by Mandela’s ability to see beyond the possible. Mandela believed that no matter how difficult the task; if it was righteous, than it was inevitable.  

I marvel at the fact that President Mandela began to write his book The Long Walk to Freedom while he was still in prison. He’d been there for more than two decades and yet he knew that he would not only be released, he also realized that he would need a plan for the transition of a country that had been locked in oppression.

We all have things we desired to see happen. What if we approached them as Mandela, Lincoln, King, Wilberforce and Mother Teresa? What if we viewed our condition as a temporary state on our way to completion?

I’ve recently dealt with a great deal of injury and illness. I’ve had to go through the growth of my children and their issues and concerns. I’ve confronted family matters and matters of the heart, but today, I see them as resolved.

I am anxious for nothing and count every trial as joy. I see my desired state as the state that I am already in.

We go through life with the attitude that we will believe it only when we have seen it. Know this; you cannot see until you believe.

Mandela looked beyond the end of Apartheid and began to see Reconciliation. WOW! Even before the oppression had ended, he had already begun to say, “I forgive you.”

Today and every day that follows, I’d like you to go ahead and forgive yourself—then I’d like you to see yourself as forgiven. Walk in the belief that you already are what you desire to be.

The love you need is now.

The life you want is in front of you

The loved ones you crave are with you.

The joy you seek already exists.

See your success now and you will be ready for it when it is made manifest.

Be you, be well, be seeing.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Thursday, December 5, 2013



On February 11, 1990, my mother called. “Turn on the news,” she yelled, “Wilson Madilla is being released.”

I laughed and told my mother that she was confused. Although I had protested, and taught my students about the inevitable end of apartheid, I had a hard time believing that it could be true.

I did as my mother told me to do and was rewarded with a sight that still thrills me. Nelson Mandela had in fact been released from prison.

Years later, when I went to Robbins Island and stood in the tiny cell that had imprisoned Mandela for 27 years, I was amazed that intellect and compassion could ever grow in that hard place.

Today, when I heard that Mandela had died,  once again, I had a difficult time receiving and believing the news. My mother and Mandela were both born in 1918 and I somehow expected them both to be with us forever.

There is a level of life that very few achieve. This level is only realized when a person dedicates their entire being to being in purpose. They give their all.

This kind of living requires that you believe that your goals are actually possible.

We cannot hope for change; personally or globally without believing that change is not only possible; it is inevitable.

Mandela went beyond the goal of ending oppression and onto the realization of reconciliation.

He gave his all and as a result was able to see that all things are truly possible.

Be you, be well, believe.

Bertice Berry, PhD.  

I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.` Nelson Mandela

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Art of Living: More Than Enough

More Than Enough

Yesterday, I met a woman who reminded me of the things and folks we often forget.

Nick, one of the Sunday Family members, decided to bring his 84 year old grandmother, Mrs. Ruth Divine. Grandma Devine moved at the speed of light and told stories that lit my heart.

She came in baring gifts; hats and potholders she’d crocheted herself. My kids and I knew a good thing when we saw it, so we began to fight over who would wear which hat. When I realized that I had turned into a 10 year old, I turned back to Mrs. Devine and hugged her in gratitude.

What I got back was a connection to a life that had seen more things than most people will ever be open to.

Mrs. Devine had raised and “took in” at least 14 children. She had buried two husbands to two wars and had also lost some of her own children. Still, she was joyous and reminded me that the loves that have left are still with us and we will see them again.

My son softly played his guitar in the background and I could see my mother and daughter smiling from the other side.

“You need to play and sing,” Mrs., Devine said laughing, and I could hear my ancestors laughing too.  
We ate the meal my daughter prepared and no one wanted to leave. We were full of the love around and in us and I was struck wise with the notion that when we come together, we have and are enough.

I’m going to make a special request and I hope for your sake that you take me up on it.

This holiday season invite love into your home. Spend less time running around for things you don’t need and spend that time with the folks you do.

Gather with people of different backgrounds; race and age. Talk to the folks you know and yet don’t really and when you do you will discover that you have and are enough.

As I gathered with all of these wonderful folks, I was not old or young; fat or thin. I was not ugly or beautiful, nor was I lacking. I was and am enough.

Come together in love and you will have everything you need.

Be you, be well, be enough.

Bertice Berry, PhD.