Alma Turner is not my birth name but the one I've given myself now, later in life, born out of respect for the requisite anonymity of AA at the level of press, radio, films, and the public internet. It's an anonymity also consciously chosen out of understanding what heals and nurtures this soul's continued rebirth and growth. The visibility of my "real name" breeds the ego and pride (or shame) that need to be exhaled to make space for a new experience; breathe out pride, shame, and the need for attention; breathe in Spirit like the leaf-platformed life-sustaining exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen,
Alma Clarke and Jennifer Turner are two women I respect -
and who demonstrate respect. They both have allowed me to "look again" and see the world anew at what is hidden, often in plain sight. Alma is gone; Jennifer certainly still lives.
Respect broken down:
"re-" means "again," e.g. remake, redo, revisit...
"spect" means "to look," e.g. spectator, inspect, circumspect, retrospect...
"Re-spect" therefore means "look again."
Alma dialogued and documented conversations with the Universal One and lived/breathed the 12 steps; her words are embedded deep down within thousands, probably millions of those who first, second, third hand listened to her, talked with her, laughed/smoked/cried/healed with her.
Jennifer has read more than anyone I know and remembered it all; fiction, non-fiction, the characters and their struggles, emotions, the contexts. She boldly engages anyone who walks through the door, goes to varied churches, gets annoyed by ministers who tell her what and how to believe.
Alma's life bore witness to an intersection of the good news of the Big Book and that of the Bible. Jennifer, or Mama Jenn, embodies the truth into, through, and beyond the gospel, one saturated with black and world history and aware of the reality of endless distortion, lies, obfuscation and the oppression it has inculcated into every nook and cranny of our culture.
Both women, God's Spirit within, save minds, save souls, save communities.
Both are acute listeners with contagious laughs who, with eyes wide open, see the good and bad angels in pretty much everybody, engage and empower those around them without patronizing, dictating, or bullshitting around. Both are from Louisiana.. (What is it about Louisiana?)
I pray to live with the attention to detail, compassion, faith, honesty, sensitivity, humility, on-going self-examination I saw in Alma. All the wounded are her children, sisters, brothers, friends. Even in her last days she was actively engaged carrying the message to a man in her building while pushing a beloved atheist friend, who adored her, to see the validity, the necessity of faith. Her spirit knew what each of God's children could and could not hear.
I pray to walk towards the tension like Turner: fiery, funny, bold, angry, musical, politically active, intellectually rigorous, singing along to the radio, lamenting, storytelling, laughing and bitching about what must make God laugh, lament, sing and pull out hair, (not that God has hair but you get what I mean). All are her children, sisters, brothers, friends or NOT.
Tenia alma de poeta. (She has the spirit of a poet)
Lo siento en lo mas hondo de mi alma. (I feel that to the depths of my soul.)
Es alma bendita. (She's a blessed soul.)
La musica me da alma. (The music fills my soul.)
'Alma' - our hard-wired-but-powerless will to to speak up, sing, nurture, empower, tell the truth. We SUFFER when we don't, when we bottle up, undermine, invalidate ourselves or others, lie, or believe things that aren't true. The consciousness says "LOVE!" the energy/power to do so comes from within, from cleaning house, from making amends, from alignment to God.
'Alma' is signaled by connection, prayer, honesty, communication, service, risk-taking. That means includes getting real, understanding, being a giant listening ear, eating soul food (the Big Book, the Tao, the 24-Hour-A-Day, the Bible, the 12 and 12,..), sharing over coffee, fried chicken, tuna sandwiches with extra mayonnaise, a comfortable chair.
Alma, a guiding force in a red polyester sweatshirt with a big silver decal heart on the front. Alma listens, smokes, tells it like it is, assesses on point,: sits at an alano club kitchen table and swaps stories of broken days and moments drunk or sober with anybody and everybody, listens to and encourages others' struggles into the light or to stay in the light, witnessing and nudging with just the right amount of push, each individual's path to Goodness, God-ness.
Turn to children, to God.
Turn water to wine, lies to truth.
Turn lemons to lemonade.
Turn someone around.
'Turner' - one who turns, has flexibility, movement, wheels, energy, cycles. There are half turns and full turns, 180 degree revolutions, and 360 orbits, Turners bring transformation! Turn water to wine, the Word to flesh, fear to faith, ideas to reality, hate to love, tragedy to comedy, much-too-much-intensity to levity. Storytellers turn details into a resonant narrative that illuminates our humanness, creates understanding.
Someone who turns might be a whirling dervish in an ecstatic dance, or someone who pays full attention to what is an annoyance to others. Turn cruelty and wrong to justice; turn towards the bullshit and talk back to it and heard or not, turn away and fellowship with beloved friends. Become a turner whose craft renders wood splinterless or clay rounded.
Turner listens, cuts in, questions, and extracts varied expressions from her community: a new job, a vision of a window-washing business, a confession, a poetry reading, a film-maker, a politician, a community center, an education in history, cat and kitten antics, a soulful duet, an amend, a healthy pregnancy, a smile from the piano player as she chimes into a refrain, "ain't that a shame," and buckets of conversations that get to the point. She turns everybody to love, to good, to God. "Hey boo! Where you bin?" "You leavin' me?"
My name is Alma Turner. I like my new name. You can reach me at email@example.com.