Oil Pastel on Paper
Approx. 8" x 10"
By Gillian E. Cornwall - c. 1988
"Hello, Trouble!" "Here comes trouble!"
I am greeted in this way, on average, 3 times a week at work and elsewhere and it tends to frustrate me. I think those using the term, use it in a cajoling or endearing way and by no means intend for it to be harmful. I think some see me as different from most women of my age and do not know how to interact with me because of it. I suppose I could be honoured that people are imbuing me with such great power - that I have the capacity to create trouble and, potentially, leave chaos in my wake.
Then, I think of the term, "trouble the water". I was reminded of it last week, during a meeting, when a colleague used the term. I liked it and have had it roiling in my mind since. There is an African American spiritual song, with Christian biblical implications, and it goes as such:
"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water"
I believe the phrase arises from this biblical reference:
John 5:4 - "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."
So, perhaps someone who is referred to as "trouble", challenges, allows for cleansing, healing and forward motion. I could go with that.... I certainly know some earth angels who trouble the waters in their quest to share peace and love.
Unfortunately, the folks using the term "trouble", in reference to me, do not consider the workplace implications of being seen by those in authority as "trouble". Talk about a career stopper. So, have I been trouble over the years? Have I stirred the waters? I suppose so. Why? I have not been appreciative of anti-racial slurs. I didn't like hearing the term "homo" or "I think you are in the wrong washroom" and, from straight women with whom I have worked in the past, "I know you'd like to be closer to me right now" or, having a woman flash her breasts at me (thinking I would enjoy it!) and make lurid comments speculating on my lifestyle. I haven't enjoyed being treated as "other" by both males and females based on my sexual and gender orientation and I certainly wouldn't enjoy being passed over for employment opportunities because of being thought of as "trouble". Do I know definitively that this has happened? No. How could I know? How would I prove such a thing?
So, if I am trouble, is it because you have named me so rather than because I have set out to be so? Have I set out to stir the waters rather than acquiesce to the silence in order to remain safer? Do I have to run twice as fast as everyone else just to keep up? These questions are all worthy of consideration.
Do I have to worry about posting this? Will it make it worse for me? I know some of you are thinking, "Oh, here she goes again! We are so tired of hearing about it..." I am tired too - way too tired to be trouble. I just want to go home and watch Masterpiece Theatre and have a nice cup of tea. Can I afford to stop pointing at the elephant in the room? We are all equal now - right? No harm, no foul? ....hmm. What do you think?
"Hello kind person." "Hello champion for human rights and equity!"
Please don't let your fear be my trouble anymore.
With love, kindness and the continuing quest for peace.
-Gillian Cornwall, July 20, 2014
Heart on a Telephone Pole
-spreading love down the line
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014