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Archive for the category “Humbling Experiences”

A Mother’s Love Will Transcend Mental Illness

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and for all of us– whether you have a great relationship with your mom, or you don’t, or she’s passed away or still with us– people take the time to reflect on the power and love of moms.

I think that’s a good thing, because none of us would be here without our mothers (we literally couldn’t live without them for 9 months), and I’m told that becoming a mother is a unique experience that infuses you with a love you’ve never experienced before, but can’t imagine living without once you’ve crossed that threshold.

Mother’s Day is emotional for a lot of people, and for very different reasons, and it should be.

It gives us time to be thankful for not only the women who brought us into the world and cared for us, but all of the women standing in the gap when maybe our own biological mothers couldn’t be mentally or physically present.

It gives us an opportunity to show love to our friends who are mothers and to let them know, “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.”

I tend to feel strange about Mother’s Day because of the situation with my mother. I’ve spoken about this before on this blog, but I want to reach out to children of mothers struggling with mental illness specifically.

Mother’s Day can be difficult, but try to be present and show your love the best way you can. Even if it’s just saying to your mom, “I love you.” Or, “Thank you.” She still needs to hear it.

When I was younger, all I wanted was for my mother to be fixed, healed and back to herself. I wondered if there were ways I could give her a push. I wanted her problems solved, her pains eased, and I wanted to go back to having a normal life. I cared about her, but I cared about me. I cared about what I felt I was lacking because my mom just couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t leave the house, she couldn’t put on her nice clothes and be her old self. She was selfish, I was the child. Why was she putting me in this awful position? I still needed her. I was robbed.

Now that I’m older, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. For your world to change, to know you have a teenage daughter and a husband and a grown daughter far away, but you are out of gas. You can’t keep up with the life you built for yourself, and maybe that life somehow became a prison. What is it like to not feel like you have a support system to start trying to let people know something’s not right before getting swallowed whole.

I think of arguments I’ve had with my mother and they were always about me and my loss and my anger and what I needed from her. I think of moments where I didn’t try hard enough when she was trying to be present, and how much that probably hurt, because on that day, it was probably the very best she could do, but I was still mad, and that effort wasn’t good enough, because only good enough was her going back to normal. But my vision of normal may have been the hell that broke her. Keeping that up for me and for my father and for everyone else, may have just been too much.

I was very jealous of friends who had close relationships with their mothers, and knew it would be a miracle to ever get my mother out of our house to go to a tea, or spa, or fancy brunch.

I’m madly in love right now (it’s about time, right) and I think of marriage often. I think about my wedding day and I also think about feeling a sense of emptiness on one of the most happiest days of my life, because as I’m getting ready, I will have a circle of women friends and family I hold near and dear, but my mother will be missing from another major life event because of her paranoia, depression and anxiety.

I get sad thinking about my father having to support his child in this moment, but not be able to share it with his wife together as happy, proud parents.

Because it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t want to make this post about me and the loss I feel. But over time, I do feel like I’ve come to accept things for what they are. Keep in mind this has taken nearly 20 years. I accept and understand the fragility of all of our emotional and spiritual well being and there are things we may never ever know about the people we love, the past traumas hidden deep, and burdens our loved ones shoulder to protect us.

I do believe that my mother gave all she could give to me prior to her illness and what she gave me was enough. She got me to 16 and in some ways, she still has me. It’s just different now. I had so many women throughout my life step in and nurture me, guide me and cheer me on, no matter what state I lived in.

They may have been older than me, they may have been peers, they may have been mothers or aunties of my friends who I connected with or who saw something in me to give me some special love.

We are a community. So if you are a child of a mother who has a mental illness, or even dealt with issues around substance abuse, or maybe your mother is incarcerated. These circumstances will make you feel self-conscious about who you are, it will make you afraid that you will become your mother and manage to hurt the people you love the same way her circumstance hurt you, it may even make you ashamed or even over protective of your mother and you stress yourself out over what the world may perceive your mother to be or not be.

Having that struggle is okay. Don’t avoid asking yourself all of those questions, don’t ignore being angry about what’s happening to your family. All of your feelings are real and valid. But it is on you to figure out how to heal and it is on you to actually take the necessary steps to heal.

Now as an adult woman and being a friend to other women and hearing the stories of their lives, there’s absolutely no shame in our moms who struggle. Yes, their struggle is more visible, but they still struggle. Part of my mom’s illness is probably directly connected to her wanting to appear strong and in control and I see that in her when I visit.

I know so many women who have dealt with great losses, who have endured mental and physical abuse (almost always by people who should be protecting and loving them– never creepy strangers as we are led to believe), and have suffered in silence for years and years. Then the expectation is that they forget and carry on as if nothing happened.

They carry this pain while fighting off their own insecurities and the ones tossed at them by society. All of this secret pain happening is happening in far too many women. So it makes me think of our mothers and our mothers’ mothers who lived in very different times. They didn’t go to or couldn’t afford therapy or even luxurious vacations or spa trips. They had to really live with their pain. Swallow it, and be expected to smile, take care of children, grown men and not nurture their own spirits.

The neglect of a woman’s spirit has serious consequences to families and to society.

Our mothers paid in pain so maybe we’d at least have a little less. In their deepest hopes lies our happiness and success, even if they never come close to having it themselves. The generational emotional sacrifices mother’s make can’t even be quantified. Mothers can look down the road and see what’s ahead and they sacrifice themselves to make our journey a bit easier. They know what it is to be a woman, they know the burden.

I know my mother loves me. I know she worries about me and I know she wants me to be happy. She always asks about my health, if I have enough money and if my love life is good. No matter her condition, she’s always asked about what I NEEDED.

Gaining this deeper understanding makes me realize that a mother’s love can transcend mental illness just as it can physical illnesses or distance. We may never know the toughest decisions our mothers had to make to save us, to keep us alive and to keep our spirits alive so we could thrive and know something better, even if their lives are a reminder of the importance of our self care and our mental health.

Top 20 Thoughts I Had The First Time My Student Loan Payment Came Out of My Account

So, I was blessed the first time around in undergrad with scholarships. But when I made the decision to go to graduate school, I said hey, I can do this. I can take out these loans. I work. I’m a good American. It will be well worth it to add a few fancy letters behind my name.

It’s soooo easy to take a loan.

However, paying them back, oh, that’s when you feel the pain.

Disposable income? What’s that? So long. Farewell.

I wanted to share with y’all my immediate thoughts when I noticed that my first major student loan payment came out of my account. Lord, it hurt. I started rocking back and forth like Miss Sophia from The Color Purple. All of the jokes and memes came to mind, and all of a sudden, they felt so real. So personal.

1. I’ve been robbed, let me call the bank.
2. Frantically looking for old emails warning me this was going to happen.
3. Profanity. Lots of profanity.
4. Panic. I will never do anything fun again until 2026.
5. Can I reduce the payment? I’m going to the site to FAQs to reduce the payment.
6. So, about that Uber thing… That’s not a bad side hustle right?
7. Short of getting married and having a two-income house, I’m never going to own a home anytime soon.
8. Profanity against my educational institution.
9. What can I cancel or stop buying?
10. The clothes I currently own will need to look good for the next 10 years.
11. Googling all of the meals I can make with beans.
12. Welp, I only have about 2.5 years left on my car payment, which seems like a blink in time, in comparison. I’ll get a few dollars back, then!
13. So, do I want to get back into school to finish, or just defer payments?
14. Current me needs a time machine to talk to old me who signed the loan papers. We didn’t exactly end up where we thought we would by now.
15. I REGRET NOTHING. I stand by my choice. I choose my choice, I choose my choice. (screaming in Charlotte York,)
16. Slow and steady wins the race.
17. Stay employed. Forever.
18. My boyfriend isn’t cheap because he occasionally vetoes splurges. He is used to paying student loans and is a responsible individual. I must absorb his ways.
19. Rethinking my stance on co-habitation. See 18.
20. Three things in life are certain, death, taxes and student loans.

When Grown Men and Little Girls Have Tea

I don’t know about you, but there are a couple of things that really bring joy to my heart and put an automatic smile on my face.

One of them, hands down, is seeing grown men take the time to play with their daughters, nieces, and/or granddaughters to have tea.

The little girls are absolutely ecstatic, and happy to serve water or air from their play set, usually surrounded by stuffed animals. The tea set fits their little hands perfectly, while their grown-up male companion, looking awkward, yet equally adorable, struggles with tiny cups and saucers, bringing said tiny cups to their lips and engaging in polite, tea conversation with baby girl.

I also think tea parties do something for men’s souls too. It reminds them of innocence and it provides them with memories that they probably go back to over the years, well after that little girl has grown into a woman. It’s a moment to be silly, it’s a moment where other men totally give other men a pass, because they know that warm feeling they’ve had simply drinking tap water or no water at all.

Just as when a baby passes you a pretend, plastic telephone, you have to answer, when a little girl invites you for tea, you must RSVP.

A conversation with a co-worker reminded me of the times my father and even my grandfather joined me for a cup of imaginary tea and how that image of two very strong, black men, who just couldn’t say no to me in my braids and big smile.

That memory is probably the very reason why, I just ADORE it when men take the time out to have tea and I melt when I see photos or video of these special parties.

I also think it speaks to something even deeper and the importance of little girls having an early image of a man spending quality time with her, paying attention to her and the mutual and very real doting that’s allowed to take place naturally. It takes root in your soul. I truly hope that all little girls, and every man who has influence in a little girl’s life can sit down for tea, because as simple as it is, it is truly a precious moment for all parties.

To this day, I love making tea for my loved ones. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, tea-making is probably one of my love languages, truth be told. I don’t have tea with people I don’t like. It’s a moment to love on someone. You don’t understand the joy and satisfaction I have putting in just the right amount of sugar, based on the individual, or breaking out my best loose-leafs for my guests and then having a long conversation.

So cheers to the big, strong, tough men who take a little time out for tea with their sweet little girls.

The First Day at a New Job is Like the First Day of School

Hey yall.
I’ve been on hiatus because I’d been dealing with being unemployed. The good news is I’ve accepted a great position with an amazing organization and I start tomorrow.

I’m grateful and thankful that things worked out for me and that my time being unemployed only lasted roughly a month. My bank account is more thankful that I am, that this situation did not continue into a second month. Even though it was stressful, it gave me a chance to get some rest, slow down and pursue certain interests I had.

It forced me to get creative about how I was going to market myself and meet new people and not take any experiences for granted.

Grocery shopping during the day is pretty awesome too.

Interestingly enough, I was able to do some freelance work for a friend who owns her own business and earn a little extra cash. I also got to see how supportive friends and family were, and who stepped up to offer a timely word of support or offer up a connection. I also got to see how other people may offer advice that may not really suit your situation and how you have to just let some stuff go.

So here we are.
The first day of work is tomorrow, and like when I was a kid, I will hardly be able to sleep tonight. I’ll map out my outfit and think about my commute route very carefully, looking online to make sure I arrive on time.

The first week of work is interesting. It’s a fresh start. You get to introduce yourself to new people. On every job, there’s someone I consider the work angel. There’s one person who stands out, who is genuine and kind and wants to look out. I’m always interested in who that person is, because in a lot of cases you don’t meet them right away.

I want to do a great job and I believe I will. What a journey. There were a lot of ups and downs this month, but I’m really glad I made it through. I’m blessed and fortunate as a new chapter of my life opens.

Job Hunting On a Deadline Is Emotionally Draining

Hey folks.

Not long ago, I found myself trying to coach and encourage my cousin visiting from the south about jumping in, getting a job and grinding like hell to achieve his goals.

I told him to be prepared for obstacles: some of which he had no control, and some of which may have been created by old choices or lack of planning and preparation.

As I enter my last month of employment in a few days, and still have bills to pay, so far, I’ve had one promising interview, and I’ve been putting in several applications all over the place.

I do believe that things are going to work out, and it’s never based on my sense of timing. And God hasn’t let me down before, even if things appeared to be down to the wire.

But my anxiety is ramping up. Especially after doing an electronic application for a job I know I was qualified for, but got a lightning quick rejection. Like immediate. LOL.

Me thinks my salary requirement got me bounced immediately. Which, probably is a good thing. There’s no point in even having a great interview if the salary they are offering is too low.

But see, everything is making me feel edgy and uncertain and in a kind of ho-hum mood.

I’ve been virtually silent at work, really just trying to get through the day and my tasks.

It’s nearly impossible for me to concentrate on the statistics class I’ve been “supposed” to be working so diligently on over the summer so I can return to my grad school program in good standing. Progress is at a standstill on that front. I get lumps in my throat thinking about it. It’s hard to move forward on a self-paced course. How sad is that?

So, per the usual, I’ve been not even looking for the silver lining, I’ve been looking for the golden lesson. The what is this preparing me for? What am I supposed to gain from feeling how I feel, and willing myself to put out just one more application?

Am I applying blindly out of fear? Or wisely out of purpose and true interest in the job?

Fear and uncertainty makes us scramble. It sounds a lot like our current presidential election.

We have a serious problem with discomfort. Fear makes us rationalize behaviors or ideas, that when we are otherwise calm and confident, we’d never consider.

It’s not limited to our votes, it extends to the partners we choose to stick with for fear of being alone, it extends to not expressing how we feel for fear of backlash or being unaccepted, it extends to every type of fear that holds us back.

So now, I have to speak myself out of the fear.

I am dwelling in the unknown. But I have family, I have friends, I have love, I have skills and talents. These are things that I know. I’ve lived in places I never thought I would and I’ve survived.

I had people tell me that I wasn’t good enough and I knew it was a lie, and I survived.

I thought the end of a relationship was the end of me ever being happy again, and six years later, I know it to be a lie.

The old church folks love to say “The Devil is a Lie.” And it’s very tempting to try to correct their grammar, and say isn’t it “The Devil is a liar?”

It’s both. Everything about the devil and all that comes with him is a lie. He works through very real things and very specific details in our lives to thwart us from our divine purpose he uses lies to get in our heads. He uses lies as agents of fear, because fear makes us move, it drives us to action.

I’m not a biblical scholar by any means, but now I get why there are so many scriptures that say things like “Fear not.” Or, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

Other verses mention love casting out fear. I gravitate to the idea of the power of a sound mind the most. The challenge is to maintain a sound mind when our natural impulse would be to fear. Our bodies react to all kinds of situations: we sweat, we want to run and hide, we get weak stomachs, we pass out, we fight.

But how do we calm ourselves in the face of fear? How do we accept what is and what will be?

Having fear is a natural human flaw that attempts to protect us from pain and threats.

However pushing beyond our fears draws us closer to our supernatural, interior selves.

Even self-help folks, and motivational speakers talk over and over again about conquering fear, about drowning out voices of self-doubt.

It’s very easy to be fearful in the world we live in, and some days, staying under the covers is the solution. But there comes a time when we must act. When we must do our part, do our best in the face of fear and trust our Creator will do the rest.

 

 

Pain and Possibility: Finding Our Way Through Difficult Times

I’ve been really weary with all of the things that have been going on in the world.

The violence and unrest and waking up to the next awful thing unfolding on the news and on social media is wearing me out. I can’t help but to be hurt, I can’t help but to care.

I can’t help but to be angry and helpless all at the same time. I’m mad because as a former journalist, I’m seeing a lot of irresponsible things happening with words, images and sounds.

I’m questioning everything, I’m mad about situations that are well within our control as a society and the things we’ve allowed to be out of control.

There are discussions of accountability and change, and I listened to a very interesting message given passionately by the pastor at church yesterday, how starting change with us as an individual is extremely difficult, so when we expect governments, institutions and entire systems to just do it overnight we’re reaching.

He didn’t say change wouldn’t happen, he just said that it does take time. I took something from that. We curse the pace of change and we get frustrated with those who don’t get it and don’t help us move fast enough, especially if we have the means to.

The second thing that kind of hit me was, usually we don’t have a problem with other people changing something we’ve pointed out is a flaw. And we may even recognize areas where we need to change. We may have a list of things some are easy, but there’s usually ONE thing that’s required of us, that may be a large sacrifice, inconvenience or act of faith and we say “I’ll do anything, but I won’t or can’t do that.”

The pastor continued to say how pain is often involved with change and usually serves as the catalyst for change to happen. The discomfort of our pain drives us to do what it takes to seek relief.

I’m awful at swallowing large pills. But it seems the times that I’ve been very sick, or in a lot of pain, I’ve managed to get them down if they were directly involved with even the slightest improvement.

But this is a human issue. It’s something we all have to look at and deal with.

I have a cousin who is in town. And I’ve been analyzing a lot of things about him, his choices, the hopes he has. And upon further discovery unpeeling other layers about his world living in a southern town with not a lot of options and how our lives are so different, based on decisions our mothers made respectively.

Where you live, where you go to school, who is your advocate and how powerful your advocates are dictate where you’ll go. It is unfair, because countless people who were brilliant and wonderful and could give something to the world may have lived and died in poverty in some far off place we’ve never heard of, or right around the corner in a community that is overlooked and looked down upon.

There’s fate, there’s belief in hard work and timing. There’s figuring out it’s all in who you know, which has contributed to most of my most amazing opportunities and experiences hands down. It was up to me to prepare myself for the experiences, but I had to somehow get connected. I had to express my need, and that if given the chance I could take it and run with it.

I had to establish a track record with people where they’d want to vouch for me.

Sometimes I feel small and insignificant. I think a lot of us feel that way these days.

I’ve been in deep conversations with the people I love talking about what we’re supposed to do about all of this trouble in the world.

I’ve tried to comfort and fire myself up by reminding myself that we all have a lane.

We all have gifts and talents and we can’t confine ourselves to fit into the one thing that a whole bunch of people deem is the one or two or even three possible ways to solve a problem.

You have to go with what fits, you have to go with something that you’ll want to be consistent with.

So if you are a writer, I say, write. Write about your pain. Then write about possibilities. This blog helps me.

If you are a doctor or medical professional, don’t dismiss your work as a service to the community because you do it everyday and get paid for it. You have a talent and a skill to heal people, that’s your lane.

If you love to cook, cook for people who need it. A good meal from the heart means a lot to people.

If you are a good listener, listen to people who are hurting. Sometimes people just need to vent and feel like they have been heard.

Do you play sports? Round up some folks and play a game.

Like kids, help your friends who have kids and babysit.

Give money to an organization that does things that you support and believe in.

Sit down with someone and share knowledge if they are up for it.

We limit ourselves, and we judge others based on what we think they are doing or not doing. We judge people about how aware we think they should be. We judge and judge and judge but we never have all of the information.

I continue to be really weary and anxious. I’m trying to keep grasp of a faith I often question, trying to map out the difference between what I truly believe from what I’ve been told to believe and reconciling what’s in between and if that is my truest belief and if that’s what God really wants me to find and connect to at the end of the day.

It doesn’t help that I’m on the hunt for a new job, with a very specific deadline.

I seriously wish I could take a week or two to simply rest and get my life together (preferably someplace tropical). But I don’t have that luxury. I have so many thoughts in my head and heart. I want to be better. But I have so many questions. And I wonder if what I have will be enough. And as one person, maybe I’m not supposed to be enough. I’m stardust in a vast unlimited sky. But if we all at least try, with real intention and from a place of honesty and humility, we’ll fill in the gaps together and where one falls short, it won’t matter.

I know I’m not the only one.

Failures, Set-Backs and Resets

As I get older, I’d like to believe that I’m gradually doing a better job of handling failures and set-backs.

Life tends to teach you that as long as you don’t give up completely, you’ll recover, you’ll readjust and a new unexpected path may open up, leading you to where you were supposed to be.

The failure or set-back is actually trying to put you back on track. It’s sometimes intended to stop you, and give you a chance to reevaluate what’s important, reset then forge on.

It hurts to write this, but I was placed on academic suspension from my grad school program.

I’ve spent the last two years working extremely hard, while working full-time, fighting each semester to avoid academic probation. The times I’ve failed to do this, I always missed the necessary gpa by a tenth or two tenths of a single point. It’s a feeling akin to being an olympic athlete missing out on a medal or the difference between gold and silver being only one point or a fraction of a second.

I’ve heard the saying that when people fail they should “fail miserably.” They should put it all out there.

But how do you console people who fail when they come really close to winning?

I’d already completed more than half of my program requirements.

Three math-related classes, one of which I had to take twice (which resulted in a B+), one of which I got a C+ and finally the last that I’ve failed completely was keeping me from my Master’s degree.

In my heart I hoped that I’d squeaked by.

But the reality was, taking two classes while working was too much for me. An hour commute each way, was taking its toll. The burn out was real as other projects for work began to increase and deadlines loomed.

I found out this information only a day or so after being shaken from a car accident, during which I was not injured or my car damaged.

I attempted to log into my new class that just began and I was locked out of the system.

After making some phone calls and finding an email from my advisor, I was given notice that I was suspended and dropped from my current class.

The feeling was overwhelming. The tens of thousands of dollars in debt that had already accumulated felt like the weight of several large rocks on my chest. It was hard to breathe, the backs of my eyes began to warm and sting with salt-laced tears.

This degree was supposed to be my victory lap.

It was supposed to be my fuck you to the depression I felt in previous years, and the sense of accomplishment I was longing for.

This degree and program represented me returning to a person I once knew. A woman with purpose who was motivated and could face any challenge.

I got used to this identity and the way people would express their admiration for my ability to juggle work and school and go after a dream.

And it felt like it was all taken away.

I do have options. I can and will appeal to the dean and if my appeal is accepted, I could be back in class as soon as the summer under the academic probationary conditions. I probably would not be eligible for financial aid, because I’d been on probation before and was granted an appeal on the condition that I wouldn’t be placed on probation.

Or, I can wait the entire year-long suspension period and reapply to the program only 15 credits shy of graduating.

I was also told that I could try to transfer to another program.

Failure hurts. There’s no getting around it. But being an adult, you don’t have much time to lick your wounds. You have to get creative, and figure out alternative ways to reach your goals, or understand that circumstances may delay your desired outcome. Above all else, you have to protect your sanity and your health.

I’m very disappointed, and I’ve been spending the last few days wondering about what it is that required this abrupt halt in my plans. What is it that I have to reprioritize and reevaluate? What do I have to go back and learn or do just for me?

I asked myself if I deserved to be in the program or if I reached too high. I didn’t study any of this stuff in undergrad, and yet I had the audacity to pursue a Master’s degree.

But I had to stop myself from that level of thinking. I did deserve to be in the program, I did deserve to pursue a masters level degree in this area. But it did make me think about the school and the feeling I had been feeling along the way.

Is this abrupt stop a moment to let me figure out if my current institution really fits me or was I more concerned about the brand name? There were some things about the program and about the lack of connection I felt between myself and the faculty and students due to the nature of it being online and a highly competitive program.

Is there another place where I could transfer and get the type of education that I really wanted and the connection that was important to me, that I thought I could do without? I still have a lot to think about. A lot.

You all know me. I’m not a quitter. But on the other side of 30, with bills and debt, how you execute not quitting, has to be realistic and strategic with self-care at the forefront of every decision.

It was hard for me to write this post, because I have an image of me that I like to present to the outside world. It’s an identity I’ve shaped for myself, that I’m proud of. And in most cases, I’ve always been able to back it up.

I’m still me. And if anything, what happens next will be more of a testament to my true identity. And at the core of everything I am, there lies and will always lie a woman of resilience.

 

 

Wedding Guest-Turned Natural Bridal Hairstylist I’m Freaking Out, Here

For most women, our wedding day seems to be elevated in our mind’s eye as the happiest day of our lives, and the magical day where for 24 hours, we are our most beautiful in our entire lifetime. And it’s usually photographed. We slay. All day. This is non-negotiable.

A beautiful friend of mine is getting married in the coming months and while attending her bridal shower a few weeks ago, she approached me about discussing natural hairstyles for her destination wedding.

Originally, I thought this was a simple conversation and that she already had a stylist in mind, but just wanted other opinions from a fellow natural. So I pulled out my phone and pointed her to amazing sites like Munaluchi Bride. (Their site is gorge, I’m just browsing. No man, but just browsing.)

This is not a drill folks. Here's the style we are attempting.

This is not a drill folks. Here’s the style we are attempting. (Photo credit. My Natural Sistas)

What I didn’t realize was, I was getting set up. The bride’s mother-in-law to be complimented me on my hair and managed to tell the bride not to worry because she would be there to help and so would I. I as in me, the author.

Me the author who experiments on her own head, but rarely ever attempts to work on others because, well, I’m not a professional and I don’t want to be responsible for jacking up anyone’s hair on a regular day.

But in this case, I’m being drafted to work wonders on a nervous bride who wants to enjoy the sun, sand and watersports all week, doesn’t like weaves, and doesn’t want to wear braids (which is understandable, because it’s usually associated with vacation styles). I’ve seen elegant braids, but I get it.

So, I took a deep breath and told my friend that I would help. But we’d have to be strategic. There were a variety of unknowns: The humidity in Mexico, wedding nerves and a high pressure situation.

We needed to select a hairstyle that could be done that day, that was sleek and could hold up to the elements, but allow my friend to have the freedom to enjoy the resort like her guests, and not have to sleep in some awkward position during the night so her impeccable style would “keep.”

We scoured pinterest boards and swapped ideas for twists and buns and styles where faux kanankalon ponytails could easily be added and then removed.

Then I devised a plan where she’d come by my house and we run through the process to see how long it would take to work on her hair, what products we liked and if the ideas we saw on pinterest were completely unrealistic.

She stopped by last Saturday and we were all set to go. I was extremely nervous and I told her that I was and that she really had to be honest with me about whether or not she liked her hair and not to think about the work or the time involved. We want to be able to get it right and make the process smooth for the day of which will already be stressful. So she agreed. And she had a good laugh at my whiteboard that outlined our game plan and our challenges.

I work in project management. I think these things out.

So off to work we went, she shampooed and conditioned her hair and agreed that she could do that in the shower the day of.

Section by section, I took the blow dryer and pulled each section taught to perform the tension method to stretch her very coily hair, that’s quite similar to mine in texture. As we went along, I realized my friend had crazy shrinkage and soon her hair was reaching her shoulders as I worked.

To cut down on the inevitable frizzing I twisted each freshly dried section and added some oil.

We played old 90s music and talked about the wedding, my dating life and other things. It made me miss the old days of spending entire Saturday’s at the salon with my mother and my sister growing up. There is a kinship between women when we go through our lengthy beauty rituals and share them, especially around special moments like getting married, Easter Sunday, graduations and proms. There is an essence of black girl magic.

As I worked through each section, my confidence would build. I’d be less timid working around her head pulling her head closer to me so I can get a better look or angle or be able to part the hair just right.

I’d compliment how strong and healthy her hair is, and how incredible her shrinkage was hiding so much length and thickness. I think that made her feel better too.

We looked at the hair adornments she brought with her and ones she was interested in online.

And after two hours of blow drying and one hour of styling, slicking hairs down and adding some hair to the bun for high drama, I told the bride it was time to take a look.

During our first attempt, she found using two ponytails was too much hair and too much high drama. So we tweaked it.

Her face was very still.

I was very nervous.

We looked at the YouTube video two more times.

I put on the finishing touches and we went to the mirror. I advised her to stand with her back to the bathroom mirror and hold the hand mirror out in front of her to see our handiwork.

And finally, a slow smile. It felt super slow.

Still nervous, I reminded her she could say she didn’t like it if she really didn’t. And that I wouldn’t be offended and to speak now so we can make adjustments (like find another stylist, a professional. A non-me stylist. Lol). And she said that she did like it.

It appeared as if she was imagining the makeup and the dress. Then, we added one of the hair adornments, and her smile became broader.

She was seeing it come together.

And so was I.

Seeing her relax boosted my confidence and I exhaled.

We clocked in officially at 3 hours. And discussed her schedule on the wedding morning that involves her time for makeup with the resort salon and the best time for us to start her hair and get her to the altar on time. We made mental notes of all of our favorite hair tools and products. I warned that for the liquids, she go ahead and pack it with checked luggage.

And now we have a happy, natural bride with one less worry, thanks to the trial run.

But we still have a very frightened, wedding guest-turned amateur natural bridal hairstylist.

Wish me luck y’all.

And speaking of the beautiful connection between friends doing hairs. Check out this video of Lupita Nyong’o explaining how she used to braid her friends’ hair in college.

 

Love Literacy

I’ve spoken in great detail on this blog about my journey to love myself, love other people, deal with the ugly and very real things in my life that have shaped me.

It’s really easy to talk about the past. It’s easy to dissect the past, but when you are confronted with a person trying to find out what you want and offer it up to you, it becomes overwhelming, scary, and your reaction to this is one of fight, flight, conflict and confrontation.

I met someone via Match.com, and he had the nerve to not even have a photograph on his profile. But for some reason, I continued to talk to this person online, and we eventually went out. Before we went out, he did send me a photo.

He wasn’t bad at all.

So let’s fast-forward.

I don’t know if the last couple of years of dating has made me a nutcase…

Ok, it has.

Spending time with this person who is actively trying to get to know me, has made me catch myself being secretive, scared, and sensitive. I feel him approaching my space, but in a way other men half-assed at, but didn’t really push.

His questions about what I do, my family and friends and how I feel about things made me feel as if he was being nosey and intrusive.

Which made me question myself while questioning him and his intentions?

Why did I have this reaction?

Well, he’s trying to get close to me. In fact, he’s said plainly. “I’m trying to get to know you. I have to ask you questions.”

Well, duh.

And while I pride myself on the relationships I’ve had in the past and my relationships with family and friends, as of late, the relationships I have with people are based on some very clear boundaries.

Right now, there’s one friend I’m avoiding because we exchanged words around Christmas and I just blew up.

My family dynamics are strange, I love everyone from a distance. I’m hundreds of miles from my nuclear family and when I go home to visit my parents, I spend a lot of time with my friends or my favorite cousin. My father chooses church, my mother stays trapped in the house because of her mental illness. My home hasn’t felt like home in decades, and I find solace in the spaces of my friends homes and whatever degree of normalcy they bring.

So the idea of someone being in my space, when I’m so used to moving, being on my own, and in most cases, thriving is very scary. More scary than I thought, when I was making up my dream man, courtship and happily ever after. The cold, hard truth is: Thinking of sharing my life with someone on a daily regular basis, may scare me more than being alone.

This is the lesson of my new friend. This is what I’m fighting against.

He wants to know what I’m thinking. And he knows I think too much.

I’m scared to tell him. I’m scared that it won’t make any sense.

I’m scared he’ll call my bluff and prove me wrong. I’m scared he’ll be patient enough to stick around and see just how vulnerable I am and what a disaster that will be.

The last few years, I’ve been very prepared for the men I’ve encountered to do something wrong, to break a deal or two, to offend me, hurt me, not understand me, or have erection problems. Anything to write them off, but say to family and friends who can’t believe I’m not in a relationship, that, “No, I’m trying. It’s just hard out here in these streets.”

I’ve experienced men who thought they could deal with the emotional ups and downs of me. But they confused giving me space with indifference. And that’s when I realized no matter how handsome, or how much money or successful they were, the indifference was something I knew I couldn’t get past.

In the dating world, I think that’s what things have become. Indifferent. And I have gotten used to it. But the rise of indifference has come along with people accusing others of being “thirsty.” The concept of thirst has ruined us.

It’s made us not believe when a man looks you in the eye and says “you’re beautiful.” It replaces the feeling of receiving a compliment, with contempt, because you want to believe he means it, but you don’t want assume the risk of letting the compliment take root and growing.

We’ve become like those bullies in after school specials who are hiding a secret that they can’t read.

We’re romantic bullies hiding that we have a difficulty loving. We have to be privately coaxed out to at least try, and once convinced that we are safe we stumble and stutter. We lash out because of the shame of our deficiency. We are told to keep trying. We stumble and stutter more, until eventually, we triumphantly get through a complete sentence.

And that’s what makes letting someone new into your life so hard.

I’m stuttering and stumbling, trying to recognize and connect symbols to words I know how to speak and hear. I feel ashamed that I had to get this far by pretending or creatively distracting others from my deficiency.

I’m realizing that I don’t like being exposed. I absolutely hate it. But I’m going to walk through it. I’m going to see what happens.

2016 is the year of the unexpected. If I’m going to breakthrough this year, I’ma have to break through.

 

Good Friends Remind You of How Super You Are When You Forget

There are times I take on a lot.

I get frustrated and overwhelmed and I may huff and puff during the process, but things seem to work out.

Recently, I had about three friends suck their teeth at me when I started doubting myself. A beloved professor and mentor of mine was retiring from the university, so as a joke I told a friend I’d design a funny tee-shirt in his honor. (Some of you lifers remember when I was heavy on my t-shirt business and kind of gave up on it.)

My friend loved the idea and then I shared it with a few others and they all wanted shirts in time for the retirement celebration. I told my friends the money we’d collect from our shirts would go toward a scholarship fund being created in our professor’s honor. Everyone thought it was a fantastic idea.

My friend reminded me that just as they loved the idea, other people at the party were going to love it too, and to be prepared for an onslaught of orders. Another friend who was so tickled by the idea offered to build me a webstore prior to the event.

But the idea of my shirt being such a success scared the crap out of me.

How would I organize this? How would I handle the orders? Would people be willing to pay the price? How would I ship it? Is it the right quality? Is it good enough?

The thought of the business management side of it paralyzed me.

So I said, I’d just buy a couple extra shirts on top of the ones I promised to a few friends attending and would see how things went.

My friends were right.

As soon as we hit the building, people wanted shirts. We sold every single “extra” shirt (and by extra I only had three extra because I was worried about putting out so much money for extra shirts out of my own pocket because I told my friends all of their money would go to the scholarship. I was willing to take the financial hit.)

The man of the hour put on his free shirt immediately! (If that’s not affirmation, I don’t know what is.)

Illustrious alumni with highly impressive careers sought me out and quipped that they could afford a $20 shirt, so gimme!

I felt silly and embarrased and unprepared by only having such a scant amount of merchandise in a place with such enthusiastic demand.

So immediately, my website builder friend made me, in the middle of the party buy a domain name, via a smart phone and my other friends offered to help me pack and ship orders and work on a Facebook page. Then they all got together and said, “I told you so.” Even named themselves the, “I told you so crew” and did an “I told you so” dance.

I mentioned this situation to another friend completely unrelated to the ones at the party and when I told her how things went and how scared I was to really promote the shirts, she gave me the “you idiot” glare, then she offered to assist me too.

Photos of the shirts from the party circulating on Facebook have total strangers asking about them in the comments and saying things like, “Take my money!” “Want one!” “Need one!”

I got business cards and slips of paper with phone numbers and email addresses of people who wanted to know when more shirts were being made.

I was overwhelmed. But in a positive way.

I say all of this to say, it pays to have friends who believe in you when you’re scared. It’s downright funny when they get annoyed that you aren’t seeing what they see in you too. What’s the best about these kinds of friends is, they don’t just believe in your dream and say you can do it, they’ll give you a push and offer up their time, skills and talents and even money to invest in you so you can feel even more confident and less alone in the process.

The original friend who I shared the idea with me told me that it was bothersome that somewhere along the way I lost my confidence. That the old me would have not been so fearful about making the shirts and selling them.

And she was right. I’m not sure exactly of what happened or why. And maybe all of that doesn’t matter.

I’m just glad to know that I have amazing people in my life who will remind me, and force me if necessary to get it back and fly.

Thank you!!!

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