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The Friend Test

I’ve made friends all kinds of ways.

In the earliest of times, it was as easy as saying: “Hello, want some Skittles?”

Sometimes it was due to an agreement that an injustice had taken place. “She didn’t share her skip it on the playground.” “Yeah, not cool.” “Wanna play at my house after school?” “Sure, just gotta ask my mom.”

Sometimes friendships were born out of group science projects, or after standing up for someone who was being picked on, or just asking a sad person if they were ok.

Some of my friendships were forced arranged situations, like college roommates or some grew out of natural rivalries to be the best at a campus newspaper.

Sometimes if you’ve smiled enough at someone you keep running into on the way to the bathroom at work, you decide to have lunch one day and the hour turns into two. OOPS!

I’ve even made some friends through writing this blog.

But what’s the DNA of friendships? How do we really build relationships with people? And how do these relationships sometimes fall apart and stay apart?

We are told all of the time when on the carousel of friends some folks are a reason, a season and a lifetime.

But I guess the friend-making, relationship-building process always comes down to the same thing.

Attendance. I have friends who live all over the place. I may not speak to them all the time, but my closest friends have spent significant amounts of lab hours with me, practicing friendship. These things consist of hanging out, talking on the phone, traveling, etc. The best way to get to know someone is through spending time.

Some of my fondest friend memories are often me and the friend sharing a meal, laughing or doing something absolutely stupid together. We weren’t anyplace fancy, it’s usually a lazy day talking about nothing and everything.

Listening. Good friends listen. And listen, and listen some more. And listen even if they are tired and don’t feel like it. Sometimes if you have a friend who isn’t a great communicator, you have to work even harder to listen to them when they do share or have something to say.

The voluntary gesture. Actions mean a lot to me. When new friends think of me and show up to something I invited them to, or brought me a favorite candy or offer to take me to the airport, it’s like daum. You really like me and want to be my friend. You went out of your way to do this or that when you really didn’t have to.

Trying new things. Trying new things with new friends can create bonds and memories and trying new things with old friends can breathe new life into the relationship. You may expose fears and or talents that you never knew the person or you had. When you try new things sometimes, you switch personality traits. If you are loud and bossy, you may become quiet and standoffish while your quiet friend may become the leader or the teacher in the moment to pull you through and cheer you on. I’ve seen this happen and it’s a very cool thing.

Reliability. “No, for real. I need a ride to the airport. And the flight is at six a.m. on a Saturday. Yes.” That friend may cuss you the whole way to the airport, but you are at your gate by 5:15, which means they picked you up around 4. Which means they woke up at 3:30 or earlier.

The reliable folks in your life show their gargantuan capacity to love you by doing things like that. These are the people you see through tears in the church as you walk through a funeral procession. They drove all night, but they are there.

There’s a song by Jill Scott called, “Calls” it’s divine. She sings so sweetly, “You always answer my calls when I call, you come.” Let’s face it. The true homies come when you call, and they feel a tingle when you are in need and come anyway if you don’t call. Those are the keepers and those are the ones you want to keep listening to, doing voluntary gestures for and showing up for (Hey, I’ve included the other bolded topics in this bolded topic! Reliability must be huge to me). There aren’t a lot of these people. They are the special ones you treasure.

In a world full of people who do more talking than ever, the reliable people who keep their word are rare.

Admiration. If you can’t name one or two things that you admire about your friends, you ain’t friends. I have some friends where we have straight up love fests about how much we like different things about each other. You don’t have to do that, but even internally, can you look at that friend and say, I really love x quality about them. Wow. No one does this the way so and so does and I’m proud of them as a human being. Andy and Ollie always take it too far on Bob’s Burgers (love that show) but you get the point.

Vulnerability. Can you trust this person? Can you say how you feel? Can this person trust you and tell you how they feel? I’ve mentioned in this blog before that vulnerability is awesome, but it’s something that has to be protected and shared with people who have proven themselves. I’ve also said in real life and in this blog that certain friends have to have certain security clearances when it comes to your thoughts, feelings and emotions and your past. And if you know the weaknesses of your friends, you can save yourself the heartache and disappointment of not going to the wrong one for support on certain issues. Some friends are stronger with business and financial advice. Others are nurturers. Some friends are good at giving the cold splash of reality, while others may take a more optimistic approach and they are good at encouraging you to take risks.

And lastly,

Consistency.  In my world, the people who are consistently themselves and are comfortable with themselves are the ones who end up being the absolute coolest with me. Their courage to be themselves inspires me to accept myself more. And when I praise my friends for their individuality and their gifts, I think it fuels them even more. I know it boosts me when they do that for me. They may grow, they may have bad days or an attitude, but the root of who they are and what they value (core things) and what they believe in DOES NOT CHANGE. These friends may change a job, a hairstyle or city in which they live, and maybe they’ve become vegan, but their general feelings on family, friends, work ethic and respect should be non-negotiable. Consistent attendance, consistent listening, and well, being reliable contributes to being consistent. I have some friends I speak to on the phone. Some via strictly text and some friends I see. Consistent doesn’t mean you have to do these things everyday, but you and your friends have a rhythm. You know when it’s been too long since you’ve spoken and you may drop an are you alive email or text and the person responds right away, or by the end of the day. Consistency to me means understanding the patterns in your relationships with people and sticking with that.

Be a damn, good friend. Damn it.

 

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We Are Honestly More Crazy Than Sane

On Facebook today, I was touched to say something like this.

If someone comes to you and shares something difficult, deep or painful, honor that moment. They chose you, they felt safe enough to be vulnerable and share something with you. I don’t take that for granted, I honor them, I honor the moment. Because it takes courage to share something that may be difficult or painful. You don’t know how people will react to it, so it does take a certain level of courage to put yourself out there like that. So whether or not they are my closest friends, a new friend or a complete stranger, I do not take those moments of disclosure lightly.

I don’t know if there’s something about me as a person, or being a journalist that prompts people to sometimes have these really deep moments of disclosure.

I know a big piece of it comes from me giving up a little something too. And usually the floodgates open, when I discuss my mother. My whole body language changes. You can read on my face I’m trying to figure out how to explain it, depending on the person I’m talking to.

I was asked about my mother last night and made reference to the fact that she stopped working, “when she got sick.”

Some people leave it alone. And I allow them to assume whatever illness.

The person last night pressed me, and I hesitated. He told me it was perfectly fine if I didn’t want to discuss it, and then I did. So the first layer is to give the simple, canned answer. “My mother had a mental breakdown when I was 16, and has never been the same. She suffers from extreme paranoia and is a recluse. My father takes care of her.”

Once that is said, folks tend to look lost, like they have no possible words to comfort me, which isn’t what I was looking for, or they open up.

They come forward and they share a story about a sister, an old girlfriend or boyfriend, or cousin or uncle or even their own mother too and every time, I am floored. Because it reminds me that so many people live in silence and shame and they are waiting for someone to tell them they are not alone and this isn’t abnormal by any means.

But when my dinner companion spoke last night, I wasn’t prepared for his family’s story. There was pain, there was honesty, there was bravado and the sense that he had no choice but to get through it all. As he told a vivid story of a close relative who committed suicide, I could hardly breathe. I fought back tears. I thought of other friends that I gave support to who lost loved ones to suicide, or struggling with mental illness.

As I get older, as we all get older and really connect with other people, you realize you are surrounded by survivors.

We all have different battles and scars and wounds, but when you really look into someone’s story, if they didn’t decide to take their life, if they woke up today they survived.

My dinner companion said something that will stick with me.

“There’s no such thing as a completely sane person. It’s impossible. We don’t live in a sane world. There are things happening all the time that make no sense and that are horrible and unfair and we have to react to those things. These things can’t happen to you and you be completely sane. You have to have a part of you that is a little bit crazy, just to survive in this world.”

I totally agree. I’ve often said that I think when mental illness fully takes people over, it’s because the sane part of that person did get tired and weak and sometimes it’s almost easier to check out completely than to face the harsh realities of this life. Sometimes you don’t have the strength being sane requires. It takes a lot, because the world is unfair and filled with ugliness. Finding the goodness in it all takes a lot of work and energy. It’s something you have to do day in and day out and it is exhausting.

There are times I can tell when people don’t talk about their pain very often or at all, because when they tell me, it comes like a flood and they don’t leave out any details. It’s very honest. Knowing how I feel about my story, my mother’s story, my family’s story, I can sense it in other people once they start talking.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been floored if someone discloses to me that they have been abused, or they saw abuse in their own home, or taking the long ride from the abortion clinic alone, or going to bed hungry or having to steal food, or spend a few nights in jail after being racially profiled. But I remained stoic. Sometimes I wanted to reach out and hug these people as they told their stories. But I’d listen with sad eyes, disgusted at whomever caused the pain offering my support non-verbally.

One thing that also amazes me about the people who eventually share.

They are not asking for my pity. I will not give them that, because I can’t. Instead, I’m honored they chose me and I’m proud of how they’ve managed to maintain that little piece of sanity that we all attempt to hold on to everyday.

The human experience is difficult. It really is.

The most beautiful parts of the human experience is when we reach outside ourselves, genuinely, to hold the hands of others, to support them and to lift them up. People have supported me and lifted me up.

I asked my dinner companion what made him happy.

He said he had never really thought about it. And he laughed about never really thinking about it.

So I asked him was there ever a moment where you were right in the moment and you knew then in there you were just happy and you knew you wanted to hold on to it?

And he said sure.

I said that was enough. You don’t need a specific list as long as you can identify it as it is happening.

Why Does Somebody Have to Die or Almost Die to Get A Ring Around Here?

It’s no secret.

I’ve been in a grumptastic mood as of late.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who is going through what I’ve gone through a couple of times, and that’s seeing a dude you had a relationship with propose and pop the question/get married to someone else.

So aside from the usual, “girl, it wasn’t meant to be and it’s ok.” Or, “Now he’s someone else’s problem, legally,” I don’t have much else to offer.

I hate, hate, HATE to say it, but in a number of cases, the man has gone through some form of emotional duress, or was in serious risk of losing the woman forever, or got her pregnant and felt he should do the right thing, or he’s questioning his own mortality after the death of a very close loved one and boom, the woman who is standing the closest at that moment of “clarity” that’s who he chooses.

And even more specifically, if that young man loses a parent or a parent becomes gravely ill, and he’s been in a fairly serious relationship with a woman, he’s going to put a ring on it.

I call it marriage roulette, or marriage musical chairs.

Life has spun certain men to the point that once the music stops, they’ve made up in their mind, now it’s time and whoever is standing there, they will get the crown.

You could have done everything right. You could have been an excellent girlfriend. You may have thought your breakup was mutual. But when you hear through the grapevine he is getting married or he already did it, there is a pain that soars through your chest.

It comes out of nowhere, and some chick who you are certain isn’t as awesome as you “won the prize.”

First of all, she didn’t win anything. She was at the right place at the right time. They could very well love one another, but you have to really ask yourself some questions when a man has been with you for a certain period of time, and either some kind of family tragedy struck or whatever.

I do think things happen to wake us up, to make us realize life is precious and so are the people we choose to love. But I will give a man a side-eye, if something as life-changing as illness or death of a loved one prompts my man to ask me to marry him. I’d stay with him and support him, but I wouldn’t rush the process or move up the date.

But here is the problem with these kind of proposals. It puts the woman in a difficult position. She’s finally getting what she wanted, but it’s under really stressful circumstances. Even if you want to tell your man to slow down, you don’t want to hurt him or offend him further. So women say yes. Meanwhile, their “special” moment still has a cloud of emotional panic all over it.

Asking a woman to marry you under emotional duress, is in my opinion, just like asking a woman to marry you while drunk.

Sure, your sentiment may be totally honest and as honest and raw as can be, but it shows that you weren’t brave enough to do it under regular, sane, stable circumstances.

Offering proposals under those circumstances is like lighting relationship dynamite. It’s unfair to both parties, really. Who wants to start off a life-long major decision that way? It’s cruel.

I’ve heard it straight from men. They felt lost, and they needed comfort and they realized how short life was and so they clung to a woman that they may not have necessarily wanted to marry before, but she was there.

She was there.

Even Steve Harvey, modern relationship guru… has mentioned that for whatever reason, men need to feel like they are about to lose out before they make a step and take the relationship to the next level.

I hate the whole game of jump, no you jump first.

Shit, take my hand and jump together.

I’m 31. There is no man in sight right now.

Oh yeah. Things with Lancelot have cooled considerably. We have decided to be friends.

All of that aside, I’m not going to be chosen, simply because I was there. I’m not a star on a mall or amusement park map.

So my friend feels like crap.

I’ve been there.

I got the news that an ex was getting married and I went running in 98 degree weather around my block.

I get it.

I see men, in long-term relationships, even living with their women (women who have been vocal about wanting to get married) and for a number of reasons they still won’t pull the trigger. They use the future tense with these women all of the time, they really can’t see themselves without these women, but nope. Won’t do it.

Why does someone have to die or almost die to get a lot of men down the aisle?

The Death of the Slow Dance

Shall we cut a rug? (stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net)

Shall we cut a rug? (stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net)

We text, we Skype.

People text on dates, during dinners. We ignore people sitting next to us and around us and we stare at little boxes, moving our thumbs and swiping fingers to send messages.

We are addicted to our phones and just playing around with them. Sometimes, when I visit my parents I have to just hide my phone from myself because my dad constantly reminds me of how pitiful I and the rest of society are when it comes to our social interactions and lack thereof.

So it doesn’t surprise me that as kids have phones and ipads to keep them busy they forget to acknowledge the grown people when they enter a room. (We got cussed out if we didn’t properly greet everybody and politely answer questions about how we were doing and how school was.) Now, folks tend to let their kids slide for being rude and say it’s the times. Whatevs.

No wonder this younger generation has difficulty paying attention, looking you in the eye and giving firm handshakes. Folks give weak ass handshakes these days, you notice that?

Why?

We aren’t touching each other. It’s a mixture of being politically correct, trying to avoid sexual harassment claims and the fact we don’t connect socially in the ways we used to. We can’t sit still with one another. Regular gaps in real life conversations, get filled quickly as we return texts to people who aren’t in the room. We don’t relax in the natural pause or enjoy each others company.

That being said, I was at a party with a lot of 40 and older people last weekend, and wouldn’t you know it? They played like two slow songs and I thought it was nuts.

I took the time to play with my phone, but noticed, that the couples a decade older took over the floor and grooved slowly. They seemed more comfortable and ready to dance when those songs were on.

People do not slow dance anymore.

People grind, people dry hump each other, but they don’t take each other by the hand, look at each other or rest heads on shoulders and get into the moment. Simulating sex on the dance floor is widely accepted, but the genteel gesture of a slow dance seems to go way over our heads. Whoa, this feels like something more. Back up…

As a society that can brag about one night stands and sex without feelings, I think we are terrified of an act as intimate and vulnerable as a 4-minute slow dance.

You have to acknowledge the other person’s presence. You can feel them breathe. You can look in their eyes. You are close, you are face to face, you have to slow down your movements, you must be deliberate, you must be relaxed.

And in this fast paced world, slowing down often appears to be a sign of weakness.

I’ll never forget my first dance. Sixth grade. Before I left the house, my dad warned me that I “better not slow dance with no boys.” He was real specific.

No slow dancing.

My mother and father fell in love in the early 70s and probably created me and my sister due to “red light” parties in sweat filled basements slow dancing. He knew what time it was.

And the sixth grade dance was in full swing. A slow dance came on. It was Boyz II Men “On Bended Knee.” A sweet boy named Robert who had a crush on me kept pestering me to dance. I told him we could dance to fast songs. He said no.

He knew he annoyed me, and came up with a compromise. He wouldn’t bug me anymore as long as I danced a “slooo dance.”

LOL.

That’s how he said it. “I promise I won’t bother you anymore, forever, but it has to be a slooo dance.” And then he had this cheesy ass grin.

He used to bug the hell out me. So I figured this deal couldn’t have been too bad. So I accepted. Then quoting a line from Nickelodeon’s “Salute Your Shorts,” I told him that my body was a map of the world, and if his hands went below the Equator, he was going to get creamed. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he agreed to my terms.

Yall, “On Bended Knee” is a long ass song, but that boy was in Heaven. He had large Steve Urkel glasses and I remember his high top fade with a little part in it. God bless his heart.

He stuck to the rules and we danced.

I never forgot that moment. I quickly walked back to the wall where my friends congragated laughing at my misfortune as soon as Wanya sang that last note.

Fast forward through high school where I managed to have maybe a total of two other slow dances, but nothing groundbreaking.

My favorite one won’t come later until the ROTC Ball I attended with my boyfriend in college.

We danced to “So Amazing” by Luther Vandross. I’m sure I’ve heard that song before then, but that night it was like I really heard that song for the first time. He was in his dress uniform and I was wearing a formal dress. “So amazing to be loved, I’d follow you to the moon and the sky above.”

The last time I remember slow dancing, was actually in my ex-fiance’s apartment. We had the r and b music channel going on the t.v. and he disappeared for a while. When he returned, he was dressed up as this character we made up, “dirty old man.”

He had on an old Colorado Rockies baseball cap, high water pants, mix-matched socks, a plaid shirt with a pin stripe vest. He grabbed my hand and asked me, the “young tenderoni” to dance with him.

It was the most hysterical thing ever.

I dropped it like it was hot, and began to grind and wind.

Then a slow song came on.

He took my hand and pulled me close. And at first, he was silly, dipping me and twirling me. But then, his eyes met mine, remnants of my laughter still lingering and we danced. It was different. It was more serious, but not intense. More sweet and gentle.

And as silly and ridiculous as he looked, we danced. He whispered funny things in my ear, our bodies pressed against one another.

Hands down, that was one of my most favorite, intimate moments that we shared.

Slow dancing forces us to be human. Even though it can be sensual, it’s not overtly sexual. The mood builds if you let it. It’s the most lovely tease. It allows us to let down our guard and let people physically in our space in a different kind of way. It’s not vulgar. And I think that’s why folks today won’t do it. This is why our society fears closeness and intimacy and we suck so badly at it. This is why you may only hear one slow song ever in a party, and you’ll hear more of them at parties with a majority of people older than 40. That’s the last generation that really appreciates it.

One of my life goals is pretty simple, but not really.

One of the only times I feel super crappy about being single is for the eight minutes every year at my family reunion where the couples take the floor and slow dance to two songs. It’s usually Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” but to me, that’s my symbol of what I want my life to be someday.

At the family reunion with the love of my life, slow dancing while our kids make faces and saw eww, a moment for just us, bodies pressed against one another, swaying and whispering inside jokes in each other’s ears. Seeing eachother’s smiles spread wide across our faces, looking into eyes, looking right back, holding the gaze. There is the ecstasy of the honesty and realness and intimacy of a simple snapshot of a life moment 4 glorious minutes long, feeling like the only two people in the entire world, on a crowded dance floor.

For the sake of humanity and sanity and all that’s good and kind and gentle in us, let’s keep the slow dance alive.

 

Lancelot Meets My Mom (Sort of)

I had brunch with Lancelot on Sunday, and once again.

I enjoyed myself. I laughed a lot and did some very mild flirting. I reminded him that it seemed every time I gave him an inch, he would take ten miles.

He replied, and “If I keep walking every inch you give me, I’ll eventually get to where I want to be.”

Darn him. That was actually kind of smooth.

This time around, I’m noticing somethings. Lancelot has really nice eyes.

And I told him that. He seemed pleased.

I also noticed about myself, that I try to look in his eyes when we are talking, but sometimes I look away.

That’s a tell-tale textbook sign, I’m starting to really dig someone. When it’s hard for me to look at you and concentrate on what you are saying and I have to keep looking away, I’m feeling you. It’s almost like I’m being shy, which is silly. But I feel exposed and if I look in your eyes too long, you’ll catch me slippin.

I’ve always considered it to be your inner light shining way too bright for me and I don’t want you to notice that I see it and am having a reaction to it.

As usual we talked about a lot of stuff. Including religion, which is a topic I can’t stand discussing with people. I think religion is a personal thing, and you can only do your journey as you see fit. So for me to impress upon people how I live and worship and commune with God is absurd. Our spiritual being is as wonderfully individual as we are and I’m quite thankful that my God sees me and bases his mercy and grace on me, not on the curve, but as specific to me and my needs and desires and faults and talents.

What struck me the most about our conversation is, we discussed my mother.

He didn’t sit back in his chair in disbelief.

He did not judge.

He did not pity me.

And he had an opinion, of course. He wasn’t politely/nervously quiet about it as most people are.

He asked me some very real questions about it. And the one question that beat me over the head was, “Have you ever just asked her, what’s wrong, Mom? What happened? Can you explain to me how you feel?”

My gut reaction was that he was nuts.

So the more we talked, I did tell him, I felt I didn’t know my mother’s full story. That I don’t think anyone did.

He said, “Well have you tried it? For real?”

And I stumbled a bit saying I’ve tried to ask her, but she was just impossible and would go off into her rants about the government watching her or ramble on about something else. I would loose patience and quit. But I realized, I never just simply asked the question in that kind of way.

So I shut up. And I asked, “Where is my damn drink?”

Honestly, between trying to diagnose her myself, and being angry and dealing with all of my feelings about it, and everyone trying to deal with it and her and all of that stuff, I’m not sure if someone quietly and calmly just asked her point blank.

I thought of the possibility that there is a difference in the way my mother and father saw religion, and that she went along with his version of it to make him happy, and to present a unified family. However she wasn’t getting the same thing out of it, spiritually. The restrictive lifestyle was counter to her free spirit. The kind of people who made up that world, who were not like her and didn’t think like her, who didn’t question the necessity of certain behaviors and ways of dress to please God and seemed to just be okay with it, but secretly resenting it themselves… how the isolation may have even started there.

I identified with my mother and how as a woman, I wrestle with my very real love for God, and what I was told as a child was the proper and only way to live for Him and how those things inhibit my faith to this day.

One time she ceremoniously stood up in the middle of service and cussed everyone out. I was mortified.

Lancelot said, “Folks may have dismissed her as crazy, but I bet you she read everyone’s ass like a book.” I had to laugh at this.

“Yes, she used language that was not considered right, in the house of God, but I bet you, in that moment, your mother told the truth, and she was finally free.”

I was gobsmacked, yet again by his assessment.

Lancelot surmised that there may be more to my mom’s checking out than meets the eye. That she is still my mom and still has an instinct to protect and that even in her seemingly frantic and uncooperative ways, she still wants to protect me in her state.

He also brought to light that even in my mother’s rants, there is a truth, and there is her truth. He said, people don’t want to take the time to really talk to someone who folks label “crazy” because it is difficult and frustrating, but he was very encouraging and with a conviction seeming as sure as he was of his own name he said, “She’s still there, she’s still there.”

I was dumbstruck.

He didn’t linger, and when I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, we didn’t.

He approached the conversation with a confidence and sensitivity that I’m not used to. And while there were moments when I felt a little uncomfortable and silly, for not trying something so simple, and human and decent with my mother, who deserved that at a minimum, he simply smiled at me.

This discussion was brought on by me talking about how I wasn’t sure how to deal with my feelings toward a book called, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.” I shared with him aloud of my dislike for the book was because either it really did suck, or my own experiences with my own mother biased me and raised familiar, uncomfortable feelings. I do think Ayana Mathis is a great, new writer and she tells a story vividly, and managed to jump from person to person, in their thoughts and gave them very individual thoughts and ideas and reasons for reacting or doing the things they did. So maybe I am biased.

This story is around a woman who is basically a cold mother to her children, who wasn’t necessarily a nurturing, touchy-feely type, because she was well aware that this is not a touchy-feely world. She simply wanted her children to survive. And because of that, they were all lacking and had equally tragic and suckie lives themselves. The ending crushed my heart, because she was going to inflict her perception of love onto yet another generation, with her granddaughter. There were no rays of hope anywhere to be found in that book. And while life has a number of dismal parts in it, I needed someone, somewhere, to have found some peace. But maybe that’s a harsh truth. We will wrangle with this lofty ideal of absolute peace and happiness, but not truly achieve it until we are transformed after death. Peace and happiness is a carrot and something to aspire to, that will keep us alive each day with purpose and will us to treasure the fleeting moments in which we do find it.

The only thing that I can surmise is because each section reflected each child during just one part of their life– but usually the most difficult and traumatic– that maybe it was just a piece of their lives and that they did manage to figure it out and heal themselves.

Lancelot managed to blow me away yet again and bring ease to a difficult conversation that I feel like I always have to build myself up for when I share it with people and then brace myself for the response.

He discussed it with me as if it were the weather, or work, or our dreams and goals. He added humor, but was never disrespectful, nor did he minimize the seriousness or the sensitivity of it. I was impressed and left breathless.

“I’d like to meet your mom, if you let me have the opportunity one day. From the way you’ve described her, she’s a tough lady. She’s a truthful lady.”

I think I’d actually like him to meet her someday too.

Advocate for Indulging In Your ONE Bad Day

I’d been feeling like crap lately. Mentally. Which manifests itself in the physical making you feel drained, achy and just tired.

I feel much better now, thanks.

I spent my entire day off Friday, someplace between my bed and my couch. Unshowered, I went in and out of sleep, occasionally peering at the ratchet daytime television.

When the voices of angry babies mothers and fathers awaiting DNA tests grew too loud and way too chaotic, I turned it off and returned to my own thoughts.

I wanted my mother. Her mental illness often prevents us from having a real conversation for any long period of time and so I cried for myself and the helplessness surrounding me and that situation, that I normally do a great job of ignoring and pushing past.

I could not stop the tears, nor did I stop myself. I heaved. I coughed. I cried til headache. Til emotional muscle failure. I needed that cleanse. I needed to stare down that monster.

It was ok that I missed my mother. It was ok to allow myself to miss my mother and mourn the more mentally stable mother I lost at the age of 16.It was ok that I missed her nurturing. It was ok that I was angry that while as thankful as I was for the mother figures in my life who saved me, nurtured me and helped me along my journey to and through womanhood, I still desired and needed the woman who gave me life, was still yet living, but at the same time a flesh and blood ghost.

So I cried.

I gathered up enough strength to put on a ratty sweater, some fake uggs and a hat and go to the grocery store to pick up a large slice of cake and some ice cream. I looked a mess and dared someone to even look at me sideways.

I returned to quarantine.

The next day, I stayed in the house for a great while, but I was determined to finally get out. I’m glad I did, because the weather was gorgeous. I really let one beautiful day just pass me by. The previous night after compulsively buying Hip Hop Abs, and patiently, slowly giving my information to the chipper customer service person determined to read all of the add ons verbatim, I added yet another fitness DVD my growing collection of workout DVDs that went ignored for the last week. I also purchased a cheap ticket to attend a theatrical performance of Howard drama students at the old alma mater.

Not sure how Hip Hop Abs will work out, they will be express mailed thanks to my friend, but the cheap theater ticket, certainly was the best impulse buy of Friday night.

Little did I know how watching those students and remembering my own dreams while at HU, and listening to the words of Langston Hughes be so well performed with such passion and pride would help to knock me out of my funk on Saturday night.

I thought about my dreams and hopes. I thought about the things I loved and still love.

And on Sunday, while I didn’t make it to church (darn daylight savings), I wrote three poems and I delved into a book I had stopped reading, Makeda, by Randall Robinson.

I hadn’t been this enthralled since reading “The Human Stain” and “The Warmth of Other Suns.” Those are among my absolute favorites.

The timing and my mind was right to finally get into the book. And I think it’s quite brilliant. When I first started reading it, unfocused and too busy, I thought the prose was lofty and hard to relate to. I had to adjust my antenna. I’m glad I picked it back up. There were moments I just wanted to highlight passages and print them out as reminders. It spoke to me in a new way, loud and clear.

I found myself nodding. The main character wants to be a writer. He has a sense of justice.  He feels like an outsider. He’s filled with imagination and spirit. He’s drawn to “strange” people– the kind of folks most people have difficulty understanding, but he gets them. He doesn’t judge. He leans on the intuitive other worldly wisdom of his blind grandmother, who has a gift to see more than most. He went to a Historically Black College.

I exchanged messages with a dear friend nearly all day, with all of my random rants and all. I felt love and acceptance.

The crazy thing about feeling so much over this entire weekend was while I spent all of Friday in serious, debilitating emotional pain, I felt it, and I did the things I needed to do to pull myself out.

I prayed. I wrote. I read and saw something inspiring. I did talk to friends, even when I didn’t feel like it.

I took a shower. (That helps a lot)

It’s odd when your hurt or feelings of pain are familiar, like menstrual cramps. Like cramps, you know what remedies you need to make the pain subside. You know the kind of cramps you can keep doing your daily tasks to, and you know the kind where you need to be drugged up and home in the fetal position.

I actually needed an entire day to be catatonic, wallow in my pain, live with it, stare it down, cry and let it out. If it went into a second, and third and fourth day, then that’s another matter altogether. One friend asked if I needed to go back to therapy. I don’t think I need to at this time, but if my state didn’t improve, I knew I wouldn’t be against it.

Today’s song. “Get it Together,” by the prolific India.Arie

Come and Get Your Little Cousin: The Facebook Edition

The times I realize I’m getting older the most is when it comes to social media and my younger cousins.

It drives me nuts to see them posting inappropriate things or stupid things, or writing like English is not their first language.

I’m old not just because I was content drinking wine yesterday with a heating pad around my neck, and I actually purchased a bubble massage mat for my tub, but because I had to pull one of my cousins into a private convo on Facebook today to admonish him for posting a photo of his brand new handgun with the caption, “My new toy.”

His friends congratulated him and complimented him by calling him a gangsta. He stopped them there, but said he needed it for protection and that he should get one before Obama says we can’t have em.

I’m upset for a number of reasons.

He lives in the south, and a number of people in the south have legal, registered guns. Our grandfather is one of them. They’d shoot guns in the air at midnight on New Years.

But my problem is, he’s in his 20s and is heavily involved in party promoting. Quick money exchanges hands, and in some cities party promoting can be very competitive and when new promoters come on the scene and steal customers from other regular parties, beefs can arise.

My other problem is employers and police check Facebook now.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hated when things happen to folks, now the photo that you see on the news is grabbed straight from Facebook and it is the most unflattering, most polarizing photos of young people wearing stereotypical clothing or doing negative things. Then people weigh in that the person had to be a criminal and deserved what they got if they were killed or involved in a crime.

I don’t want my cousin to be judged in that way.

I honestly don’t want my cousin, who is a large, black man to be pulled over with a gun whether it’s registered or not. It’s just one more problem one more reason for potential harassment, or for an antsy police officer to say they feared for their life, he was armed and can kill him justified.

This is the world we live in.

I also told him with what he does, he may have acquired a lot of friends, but everyone isn’t and you have to be careful of what you post. When you advertise that you have a gun, someone is going to test you to see what you’ll do with it. And if you have one you have to be prepared to use it.

My cousin responded that he doesn’t really have haters and he’s friends with everyone.

Everyone please roll your eyes with me.

I think I’m a nice person. But I guarantee there is someone out there who just doesn’t like me for whatever reason. I don’t know why, but that person is out there sucking their teeth at the mention of my name.

His sister is 19 or 20. For the most part, she’s a good kid. She’s just really proud of her body and often gets compliments on how “thick” she is and what a great butt she has. That’s a whole other ball of wax (self-esteem, modesty talk…), but I can’t help but feel protective of them.

I’m not very close to them as I should be, so sometimes I don’t feel like I have the right to jump on their case, but when I see something egregious, I jump in, because I’d be mad if something happened to them and I didn’t. And I care about their future. They don’t need to participate in that kind of social media behavior. They are smart kids who can have a positive future without their bad choices being displayed for the world to see.

Personally, I’ve cut down significantly from party pics, and even if I have a drink in my hand during a photo-op, I put it down, or I put it behind my back.

I don’t want anything to hold me back and I don’t want to embarrass myself or my family.

It’s scary with this generation that is coming of age with Facebook. They are really, really free with it and don’t think about the implications.

Maybe I’m being a 31-year-old fuddy duddy, but this is the one instance where I feel like age and experience comes in handy and whether they want to hear it or not, I have to say something.

I Love Others Better When I’m Loving Myself

Photo credit: Dan/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo credit: Dan/freedigitalphotos.net

I woke up this morning and I didn’t want to work out. I just didn’t want to.

But I did.

Because it’s Valentine’s Day and I love myself.

I finished the workout and I felt good.

I was glad I loved myself enough to do what I was supposed to do for myself and my body.

In my Facebook status, I told folks to remember that love never fails, and to celebrate love in all of its manifestations in your life. Be it friends, family, and yourself.

Do not make today just about romantic love. Or dwell on the fact that you have it, or you don’t.

Celebrate love period. Celebrate it with your parents, call your grandparents if they are still alive.

Call your old play cousin.

Give your kids a candy heart or a bear. My dad did this every year in my house and I wrote a very long and heartfelt blog about how this influenced me last year. Folks really responded to it and it was so touching to me.

Tell your close friends you love them.

A dear friend of mine and I were talking about how special it was that our dads gave us valentines every year growing up.

She lost her dad when we were in college, and the memory made her cry. I told her it’s ok to be sad, but also just be thankful that you knew he loved you and showed you how a man is supposed to love and honor you. We were on the phone and I felt so bad I couldn’t hug her. So we stopped talking about it.

When I saw her a few days later, I snuck a saucy valentine’s day card in her work bag.

She saw the card yesterday and she thanked me. She’s going to drop by some valentine’s cupcakes for me today.

That means something.

I will be making dinner for the boo thang. It’s cool, but it’s not a super, big deal.

I did actually wear red and pink today and I feel cute. I found some red pants from Target for like $12 bucks. I’m rocking it hard. And rocking my red lip. Fun times.

Also in my Valentine’s status today, I said that the first person we need to say I love you to, today is the person looking at us in the bathroom mirror.

I can say, flaws and all, I love myself. I love my God and I love my friends and family. It’s not about a man. I’m happy that I can spend the day with someone I like spending time with, but I think if I wasn’t in the early stages of dating someone, I’d feel the same way I feel today and that’s a huge deal and it’s something to be proud of. The more I love myself, the more I can share love with others and give it freely and not fear being hurt or taken advantage of. The more I love myself, the more I can be patient and compassionate with others when they need a little extra love and attention and it won’t cost me anything, it won’t be as emotionally taxing.

Think of the times you are stressed out, and unhappy with your life or yourself. Any problem the people in your life have, it feels ridiculously heavy. You are almost angry with them that they are going through drama at the same time, because you know you can’t give your best to them.

I love the book the Five Love Languages, but for real. You have to fill your own love tank too and do things for yourself, that you know you enjoy and love.

Get your massage. Try a new fragrance. Order from your favorite take out for lunch. Work out. Write a list of things you like about yourself. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Wear your favorite outfit. Listen to your favorite music. Talk to a person in your life that you admire. Be like me and marvel at some new furniture and be happy about the abundance in your life where ever you can find it.

So, today I’m commanding you fabulous folks to look at yourself and love what you are looking at, then smile.

I looked in the mirror with my red lip, dressed and ready to go to work. And oh so quietly I whispered, “I love you.” I watched myself smile and laugh a little, then I turned out the light, grabbed my keys and marched out the door.

Me, Commitment and Furniture

As someone who has lived in various parts of the country, and moved for work, making a house a home would tend to be the last thing on my mind.

I’ve mentioned in other blogs that after being in my place for about six– going on seven years now, I’ve said screw it, this is my home.

Transition seemed to always keep me from settling in, and it was a crutch really that allowed me not to commit.

I don’t know if that ties into my penchant for long distance relationships and why seeing someone local still makes me feel so nervous and with one foot in the door.

As a non-traditional, traditional woman word up. There are times where I have been apprehensive about really settling into my home and buying real grown up furniture because it meant I was really investing in living there. Like, for real.

And it was saying, no, you aren’t going to be bouncing around for a while.

If we drill down a bit deeper, when I was in a very serious relationship about to get married, I was thinking, I’m going to buy new stuff when I move in with my husband. I’m going to be moving and I don’t want to take a bunch of crap with me, and we want to build our lives together and develop our own style.

So two weekends ago, I broke down and purchased a new dining room set and I lovvvve it. I’ve mentioned having a desire to host more and it just makes sense.

I love my old dinette set, but it’s nearly 20 years old (but in awesome condition and I’m willing to give it away for free to a person who will love and appreciate it as much as I did. Tall white table with two tall white chairs and I’ll throw in my hot pink Ikea seat cushions that I bought like a month ago, if you know someone in the DC, MD, VA area. Wink, wink.) and was in my sister’s bachelorette pad and she’s been married for like 12 years. She passed it to me for my apartment when I was living in the South, and I’ve had it ever since.

It’s time to retire our (my sister and my) set.

As I was making room for the new set, that arrives today, I felt excited, and actually a little anxious. Like, for me, this is a big deal.

I made a choice to buy furniture and I didn’t NOT buy the furniture because I’m waiting to move in with my future husband in my future home. And sadly, that was something that has been in the back of my mind. Even though I’ve stayed in my current home for awhile now, I just still feel like my life could shift at any moment and I need to pack light so I can pick up and go.

Oh, well. Those things will take care of themselves. And maybe my future husband will love my furniture and will decide we should keep it and merge it with the new. (Actually he needs to. When I spend my hard-earned money on something, or as you see if someone gives me something, I want to get optimal use out of it.)

There is nothing wrong with making my place as fabulous as it can be while I am by my lonesome, and while I share it with my family and friends who visit. That’s the take home message of the day.

I’m thrilled about my new dining room set and I will be breaking it in, making a sexy Valentine’s dinner for boo thang tomorrow night.

I can’t wait for the countless dinners, lunches, breakfasts and brunches, girl talk chats, and moments I’ll have sitting at that table with the people I love sharing a meal. And that ain’t nothing to be afraid of.

 

 

OMG it’s here!! The truck!!!

Happy New Year!!!

We made it folks! It’s 2013.

Most of us have been enjoying the holiday, spending time with family and friends, making memories, making resolutions, breaking out our gym shoes and renewing or starting health club memberships.

We cleaned out or closets and we gave stuff away for donations (and a tax receipt). We spent time reflecting on what we did wrong and hopefully what we did right this year.

Me, I did a lot of that and I have a larger list of things to do. I did some praying, I did some cooking.

Actually, a Lot of cooking. I had this feeling when I got back from visiting my family and friends in NY that for New Year’s weekend, I would cook.

So I made my pork barbecue, homemade potato salad, mac and cheese and I was determined to defeat an old foe.

Sweet potato pie.

There were times I’ve nailed it, and other times, where I had to throw them away, they were just that bad. I’m so proud to say I made two awesome pies this weekend thanks to a little of patience, love and an awesome Sharper Image hand mixer!

I enjoyed sharing my food with my friends who may have been away from loved ones for New Year’s too.

Lately, my close friends have indulged me in just straight taking time out to play. I mean literally.

I spent time with some friends touring my local brand new boys and girls club and it’s an amazing, beautiful facility, one me and my friends would have never left if we had such a place growing up. Seriously, these kids have an amazing opportunity in front of them with a great staff, there is no excuse not to be excellent! I was so proud to visit and show my support.

The night before Christmas Eve, I spent the evening with my best friend, exchanging our gifts, laughing our heads off and wrapping gifts. I taught her some of my tricks for the perfect wrap. Then after finding a defective roll with a gaping hole in it, we proceeded to play in the paper, wearing it and having sword fights with the cardboard roll. We covered ourselves with bows and posted them online. Our friends started to comment and we were even challenged to build a fort! So that’s what we did! Old school.

Blankets, chairs, sofa cushions and two grown, well-accomplished, well-traveled, degreed women, 30-years-old, were building and taking pictures in a fort! We were giggling and laughing and rolling on the floor and I asked if it was crazy that I enjoyed doing that at 1 a.m. rather than being in someone’s night club.

Another wonderful friend joined me this weekend, who I invited to eat my massive amount of food. She brought over paints, brushes and paper.

We painted, drank wine and cackled. I loved every moment.

So, if nothing less, I learned that for 2013, I need to have a moment to play. Just play, have a good time, do something that seems immature and silly, like build a fort or draw a picture or paint with watercolors on your living room floor.

I have to write another post to describe New Year’s Night with New guy/aka boo thang. It was fabulous!!!

My hair was pretty awesome!

Happy New Year folks, go out and play!

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