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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.

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Accidental Pioneers

As of late, I’ve been getting into a lot of conversations about love in modern times. I’m interested in reading funnyman Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance” but, I’m also afraid that his use of real statistics will make me feel even more off balance about the future.

I may have mentioned this earlier, but it seems to me that “traditional” relationships the follow the traditional life cycle works well or seemingly works well in situations where the power structure (vis-a-vis) the key breadwinner is the male.

This is all anecdotal. But especially in the black community, I’m finding that people who are working class and lower middle class who aren’t highly educated pair up faster. The people who live in smaller communities away from major cities are also linking up. (Google DC and Dating… all negative results) They will either marry young, or they have kids from previous relationships and have come together. There’s struggle, but they stick it out.

Throw the military into the game, and you have several young, married couples and that’s across ethnicity. It all boils down to choices. The young people who often enter the military are doing it to advance their life, because they have limited choices (some are actually really patriotic or do it out of family tradition). They may not have higher education, but it’s still the one place where you can rise, regardless of your pedigree, and get training, benefits and support yourself. The military promotes structure, and values marriage.

If you are successful and in a large city, you assume your options are endless and that you will get the best of the best. But you’re competing with everyone else who thinks the same exact thing.

I do think if you’re living in a smaller community away from the noise and distractions of a big city, people are focused on different kinds of activities that lend themselves to the ideal of family and friends and when you meet those kinds of people who share those values, it’s easier to connect.

There was a huge culture shift when I lived in the south. Since there weren’t any really great clubs, or you literally saw the same people all of the time, I found myself enjoying barbecues with my friends and visiting some beautiful parks and recreational facilities to just lay back and enjoy a beautiful view. When your mind and body has time to rest and relax, I think you can be more vulnerable. The pace of life seemed terribly slow. Too slow.

The hustle and bustle of urban living makes us harsh, and it makes us impatient, always on alert and skeptical and looking for the new restaurant or show coming to town, because there always is one. You expect change, you expect variety, you expect to show up someplace and be entertained, you expect instant or near instant gratification.  This isn’t to say I’d find my bliss in a small town, but living in a major city provides a lot of competition.

Even my friends living in smaller cities find themselves with a different view on life than other residents, which makes it a bit harder to connect. So there are all kinds of caveats here.

I used to scratch my head. Here I was with all of these beautiful, intelligent friends, and folks that I went to high school with in my boring ass town, or people who could be labeled as hood, who may have already had not just one, but multiple kids in tow, were getting married.

I knew I didn’t want the type of men they had because I didn’t feel like they’d stimulate me, or they had kids, but I did notice a common thread.

These guys may have not had a lot, but they were hard workers. It seemed like they may have learned some tough lessons and wanted to get it right once they met a good woman. They were accepting and they knew when to stop acting like they had every option in the world and bet on a sure thing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my very-well educated friends tried to listen to the don’t settle noise and they chose dudes who they thought were like the men I mentioned, but they were not. They wound up attracting losers who had no problem with living off of them, and having them take care of their kids, bringing absolutely nothing to the table. They almost always had something negative to say about their previous relationships and that it was always the other person’s fault.

So, it is kind of baffling that the first type of man who I mentioned doesn’t end up with the educated woman, but at the same time it’s not.

That first type of man, needs to be the man and doesn’t want to compete or feel like he’s competing. He’s going to be sensitive about his woman making more than him. So I think he avoids dealing with these women on purpose. Strong women will attract scrubs, but it doesn’t mean you should say yes to them.

At this point in the game, I think love, socioeconomics and power (or at least the perception of power) go hand-in-hand and that’s what’s keeping me and my friends single. There’s an invisible caste system, and the stronghold of patriarchal society that’s a barrier to our societal advancement in areas of marital love. Men have to play a role in normalizing women’s equality in business and at home and be more comfortable with the blurring of traditional lines instead of being perfectly fine with a second income, but still not helping enough at home or with the children. That’s today’s man’s new conflict. He’s either going to implicitly protect patriarchy or he’s going to readjust his home and make serious and real room for his wife in not only financial decision-making (which men do seem to be good about), but in home and child care as well (still seen in the eyes of many as the woman’s job).

There’s a little old song that says, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Need and the ability to lean on another person and even trust them to do the right thing in your best interest does take your relationship to a deeper level and will get you there faster.

I’ve seen this several times when I’ve dated educated black men, it’s far more difficult to get them to open up, and be vulnerable. Just like us, they do not want to exhibit weakness, but they want to keep you at arms reach.

At this point I feel like dating is more about convincing someone to care about you with the least amount of effort and emotional risk on your part. And that’s where we’re fucking up..

We can drain our bank accounts and give ourselves heart disease over start-ups and professional aspirations that we wholeheartedly believe in, but we can’t break a sweat for love.

It’s too risky.

We can build just about anything.

But loving someone is the ultimate in unpredictability, and we just can’t do it. We see it as this impossible moving target.

How are we a generation of fearless innovators and boat-rockers when it comes to everything else, but absolute punks when it comes to love?

I do think on both sides, if both parties are highly educated and they make good money and have been able to take care of themselves, it’s difficult for two semi- to very successful people to be vulnerable enough to depend on, another person. They know how to fail and succeed on their own and take the praise or take the wrap, and these individuals can accept either. But it seems there’s another standard these people, male and female, have for their partners.

Deep down we want our partners to be exactly how we want them to be with little or no effort on our part. On top of that, we want our partners to accept us fully and be in love with us flaws and all.

There, I said it out loud. That’s what we say when we are adamant about not settling. And while I hate the S- word, people in a difficult economic situation, don’t have many choices, therefore they settle strategically for survival. If you’ve ever had to struggle, you dream about the things you want, but you are realistic about it. With the resources you have, you have to get the things you need first, and then make that stretch.

I honestly think that all of the sisters and brothers who have those “hood love” relationships, at their core they understand and practice that without even thinking about it. People who may have struggled financially, especially in their youth, know all to well about broken promises and the pain of going without. The act of consistency is much different from the promise of it. And I think two people who share that kind of background can far more easily get on the same page and fight for their relationship.

You have to get creative to make things happen for yourself, and you protect your loved ones and your family. You share so everyone has something. It’s communal.

It’s very different if you grew up in another type of situation where you had your own room, barely had hand-me-downs if at all, and could tell your mom she forgot your favorite name brand cereal and she’d pick it up the next day.

I’m not saying well-to-do people can’t love or don’t know how to love. That’s ridiculous. We are all humans.

But I think for me, as an educated, self-sufficient black woman, we may have ascended humble beginnings, but with that ascension we naturally want more. We demand more. We feel betrayed that after all of this hard work and sacrifice to make ourselves better, and make our families proud, and after all of our positive choices, we don’t get the prince charming.

We’re given different messages depending on the weather. Settle, don’t settle. Be more of this, don’t be that. You’re intimidating.

We struggle with having the traditional values instilled in our families about sharing and responsibility to our loved ones, while in our professional lives, we are playing the individual success game, by totally opposite rules. There’s a conflict in the spirit of successful black women. We are suspended in between worlds. No other generations of black women have been where we are, and that’s why they are no fucking help whatsoever and why our conversations around relationships include more questions than answers.

Our mothers and grandmothers want us to find love, and even though they got married young, they knew it wasn’t easy by any means, and they may secretly envy our independence. That’s a whole other post.

And our largest struggle isn’t finding that right man, it’s reconciling that conflict and making peace that we are living in a strange time of duality. Our largest and most awful reality is that we have to wing it. There’s no one before us to tell us how to do this because we are the pioneers in a new terrain, with very different challenges. No one else, no matter how much we respect them are going to have the answer for this. Sorry.

We have to stare down and grapple with:

What is it to be a woman in a relationship?

What is it to have the most power, education and financial freedom of any generation?

What is tradition?

What works for me?

Who is the type of man to help me define and refine our relationship just based on us and our unique history, experiences, strengths and weaknesses?

I think that’s why the conversations between us and our mothers and aunties and grandmothers are so difficult. A lot has changed within just one generation. Our mothers and aunties and grannies may have stayed in marriages that we would have left or avoided altogether, but economics and opportunity or lack thereof made those women work with what they had.

Love will always be about love. But marriage, it’s the day-to-day operations, the sausage-making that keeps us accountable to one another. Marriage is the teeth-cleaning and the oil change, it’s the practical and necessary maintenance of a union. It’s often not glamorous, it can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can heal, make you better and make your execution of love run healthily.

But I’m still not sure how the hell I’m supposed to even get there.

 

One of the Toughest Questions

The toughest question people have asked me, that will shut me up or make me stumble is when they look me square in the eye and ask me, “What do you want?”

To me, it seems like such a huge, massive question. I mean, maybe I’m not used to people asking me that, and now folks are asking me this all the time.

I’m being asked this when it comes to my career, what I want to do after grad school and in my love life and I often find myself completely thrown off guard and tongue-tied.

The craziest part about that is, I used to know. I was a person who knew early on what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.

When I was a little girl, I had no problem telling people I wanted to be the “first black woman president of the United States.”

I found out that when I’d be old enough to go to college, in order to be president, I’d of course have to study political science. So boom, I had a major set up by the third grade.

Things changed. In 8th grade I was working on the school newspaper and fell in love. I was going to be a journalist. And that’s what I had set out to do, and I went to college for it, I had my internships with magazines and newspapers and boom, I was working as a journalist. I’ve covered a lot of very cool things and met amazing people. And when people would ask me about my future, it was get to the big newspapers and eventually become a beloved columnist, writing until the day I died.

Well, the industry changed.
And that change, changed what I wanted and changed what was going to make me happy. Mainstream journalism wasn’t making me happy, not living in DC anymore wasn’t making me happy.

So I got another job, and I moved back. I knew I loved health and medical reporting so great, I got a gig doing that, I also loved learning about websites and incorporating technology to tell stories in creative ways, so I worked my way up, until I got bored. I told folks what I wanted, a new title and to lead the junior editors and I needed more money. And those things happened, but once I taught the junior editors all I could, I wondered what else was there for me to learn. So I went into government consulting.

What I wanted changed again. What once made me happy, got old.

So I decided to go to grad school to work on my Masters in Public Health.

I love how the random pieces of my life really do set the tone for the things I eventually realize I want, but there are these moments where I truly don’t know. Where I need to explore.

I’m supposed to meet with someone a friend recommended I speak with, but I’m really afraid of that person asking me the inevitable and not having what I think is a “good” answer.

This same friend asked me if I’d ever be interested in launching my own business. I had told her that I love being creative and if I did, I’d need a business manager who would gladly take care of the details that I hate when it comes to running a business.

I admire business owners, I love their guts and their confidence and their ability to win people over, and in turn, give other people opportunities. It’s so cool to me, but sometimes, I wonder if I have enough in me to pull it off. I get very impatient. Sometimes, I have to just quit temporarily because I get overwhelmed. I’m a worry wort. I appreciate stability. I have a serious fear problem.

And these same fears carry over into my love life. Right now, there’s nothing going on. Nothing. No signs of life. And if a really great man looked me in the eyes and asked me what do I want, well, I might do a better job of listing what it is that I need and want than career wise.

I’ve been so used to knowing, then mapping out a plan to get there. That’s another reason why grad school has been so fulfilling. I knew I wanted my MPH, but two years would be enough time to figure out how to Frankenstein together my perfect career that still allowed me to bring my experience and skills as a reporter, writer and editor, while also giving a nod to this growing techy side as a content consultant. I’m certain that I want to work in health communications, but the questions my friends raise about me stepping out on my own has me wondering.

I have a combination of unique skills. How do I build a business out of that? I know great people over the years who I’d love to work with and who I’d love to give opportunities to and just let them do their thing, but how would I make that happen? But I wouldn’t want to drag people into something and let them down.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m lying to myself and deep down I do know what I want.
I’m just terrified of it.

With Each New Trip, Comes A New Epiphany

There’s plenty to blog about today as I’ve just returned from Toronto to attend my first ever Caribana. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed hanging with my travel mates, some of whom I’ve never traveled with before. It was a success!
But with every trip, when I come home, I have a renewed sense of purpose and wanting to live out my life in a bigger, better way.
In 2013, the result of this post-vacation feeling pushed me into looking into grad schools, then applying, then taking the GRE and then getting accepted and starting in 2014.
In 2014, after 7 years of working in the same place and going on at least 4 different interviews over that time period and none of them panning out, a job I didn’t think I got had offers waiting for me upon my arrival from the Cayman Islands.
So it’s 2015, I’m half way through my studies in Grad school, I’m working very hard at that new job I took on in 2014, and after Toronto, I’m looking around wondering, “What’s next?”
The thought started to enter my head that maybe after nearly a decade in the Washington, D.C. area, moving someplace else to start fresh might be a good idea. Last year, that idea only seemed to be reserved for after I graduated school, but thanks to online education, it’s really not the deal breaker I made it out to be.
For 9.5 years, I thought to myself I have not had a stable healthy relationship with any male who actually lived in the D.C. area. Two of the relationships I had while living here, were long distance.
I was starting to wonder, if it was me? If it was D.C.? And if together, we weren’t a good match for my love life.
Let’s face it. It’s a competitive city.
We compete for jobs, we compete for great places to live, and women, whether we want to admit it or not, we’re out here competing for the same men.
We know it and they know it and for this reason, the game has lost its fun factor.
Most women in any city will say there are no men there.
What Caribana revealed to me most was there are men everywhere. There are men of all kinds who are interesting, kind, funny and considerate and hard-working. There are men who are selfish, egotistical ass hats who have subpar penis.
So I wondered to myself, where were these men in DC?
Are guys only fun when they go to an event in other parts of the country or the world? Are they more open? Am I more open?
Could I waltz into a club and channel my Caribana vacation self and charm someone silly? Is that my problem?
The DC, everyday version of myself hates the clubs and has no desire to dress up, heel up, make up and play the game. Sure, I’ve been slumming it at local TGI Friday’s and I guess I shouldn’t complain about what I get.
I refuse to go back to online dating because it’s exhausting and annoying.
So, I can admit, half of the problem really is me. I can’t blame D.C. and I can’t blame how wack men are these days, especially when I’ve turned down really nice guys, who I’ve complained I have no chemistry with.
In terms of me taking care of myself and doing things to make myself happy and making choices for me and only me, I’ve been doing a fantastic job.
But my love life has taken a position on the back burner. I told myself that this selfish phase I’m having really doesn’t allow for me to give anything to anyone else, but there’s a small part of me that calls bullshit.
And that voice is getting on my very last nerve and keeps me up at night. That voice makes me wish for the intimacy I’ve shared with exes that is nothing but a memory, that voice makes me wonder about what random flirtations really mean or what they don’t mean.
That voice makes me wonder if I guy I met on vacation who lives in this area will give me a call and want to actually meet up.
I don’t deny any of my feelings. I think they are natural. But something is pulling at me for change and it’s not surprising. I started out my adult life on an adventure tip. Out the gate, I moved to places my friends and family would have never gone or tried to leave a long time ago. I tested my mettle, and there’s a big part of me that feels like I lost that adventure in the name of security. But even when I was running around, moving from place-to-place and job-to-job, I wondered what the secure life would be like.
I told a friend, I’m never satisfied. When I’m hot, I want to be cool, when I’m cold, I want to be warm. When I’m in a situation, I want the opposite of what I’m in at the moment.
I have a problem with patience, I have a problem with process. I can change my mind on a whim, however, I believe I’m a steady person and a reliable friend.
While I do have fantasies about what my next meaningful relationship will be like and how happy I’ll be and how grateful I’ll be for it, I also fantasize about random romps with strangers if I had the courage and the ability to just walk away and never look back. Is it conflicting to want to be fully present in both of those situations, even though they are polar opposites?
Probably, but that’s how I feel.
I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. But when I don’t feel like making a decision, it would be ok to go with what’s decided for me sometimes.
I like to be alone with my thoughts and work things out in my mind until my thoughts wear me out so much, that I want to be held by someone. Then, you may enter my space.
I shared my recent thoughts of moving with a few friends and they had varied responses, most of which were for me to do what I felt like I needed to do.
One joked that it would be my luck that once I moved, I’d meet someone from this area. That same friend, who is in a relationship then gave me the, “chin up, he’ll find you” phrase. Ugh.
For single people, when people in relationships tell you that, the only feeling comparable is when employed people tell unemployed people exhausted and demoralized by consistent rejection that the next interview will be “the one.”
In both cases, you know people mean well, but you don’t want to hear it.
They’ll tell you how great you are and can’t understand why you don’t have a man or a job because you’re qualified in fact you’re over qualified, and that’s the problem!
While this so-called pep-talk (and I’m guilty of giving these) is going on, you either really think about your shortcomings preventing you from having the job or the boyfriend, or you get mad at the system because given the right chance you know you’d be great.
I’ve learned a long time ago that a lot of things are based on timing. There’s an ebb and flow of life. There are things you have to look and listen for in your heart and in your gut to lead you to the next point. I get impatient with what seems like the slow-moving points because I have no idea what’s ahead, be it good or bad. Sometimes you just feel like you’re stuck in one place. One thing is for certain, even when you’re stuck you either find the strength and motivation to unstick yourself, but if you sit around long enough, something will come along and move you and when that happens, it’s involuntary. It may be due to necessity, or fear or a little of both and I can’t stand operating in fear.
I believe in God. There are all kinds of scriptures about being still or standing still. So maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s a big part of my lesson or journey trying to identify the peace in stillness over the loud ass sounds of my thoughts, fears, insecurities and anxieties.

How do you get to the breakthrough?

My eyes are about to fall out of my head.

I can’t do much more of this homework for tomorrow.

But I really needed to blog.

I met with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and she congratulated me on my new job and all of that fabulous good stuff.

Oh yeah. I finished my first module of grad school with one A-, B and a B+. I think that’s darn good for full-time employment and not being in school for ten years! Patting myself on the back.

But getting back to the point. The friend sighed and said, “What did you do to get to the breakthrough?”

Her question totally threw me off.

While great things are happening to me right now, I still feel overwhelmed a lot of times, nervous and anxious that I don’t want to screw it all up or disappoint myself or not excel to the point where I come short of the blessing of it all. So I’m busting my hump, and I’m not doing a whole lot of sleeping and I’m waking up early.

But her question also gave me great perspective on what I put out there.

I’ve been vocal that my life ain’t been no crystal stair, but it hasn’t been just some long, difficult traumatic experience. I’ve never been abused, I’ve never really gone without and I know successful people who have been in those situations. And they blow me away.

So I sat and thought about it. And I gave her this list.

I made a conscious decision after not getting another really awesome job that fine, God if I’m supposed to stay at my job, you have a reason why I’m supposed to stay here and I accepted that.

Now that did not mean I thought I didn’t deserve better or I should just stay there forever. But I decided to pick out the 16 things that I was thankful for and decided there were advantages to being where I was at the time.

Which led to the decision to get a master’s degree.

Which led to getting the information and having really aggressive admissions officers strong-arm me into taking the GRE and making admission deadlines.

Before I knew it, I was putting my energy into something real instead of coming home every day and vegging out. Man, I miss free time!! I have a deeper appreciation even for my Target runs or times I can go out with my friends.

So once I accepted my situation and started being conscious about telling God thank you, it opened me up to do new things.

Then at work, new opportunities happened where I could try new things and impress folks and that was awesome. It boosted my confidence. I got a chance to lead and I decided to use those opportunities as practice for whenever the next phase of my fabulous life was going to begin and require that level of confidence and aptitude.

Giving up online dating and stressing over finding a man, and even giving into urges to have meaningless flings and being honest with myself that I deserved more and deserved and really desired intimacy, it was easier to ignore the late night “are you up?” texts from men I normally couldn’t resist.

Sometimes you got to give some stuff up.

I was praying more.

But not those formal prayers with all the extras. I started talking to God like anyone else and I was talking to him when I studied, when I was driving to and from work and saying what was really on my mind. What I was afraid of, how grateful I was for everything I had, opportunities, comforts. I told Him about things that upset me, things I didn’t think were very fair or people who pissed me off. I was getting way more real.

I was working on being more transparent, getting more comfortable with who I am and giving myself more credit.

I was constantly writing down things goals, dreams. I daydreamed again about things I’m interested in, the things that make me happy and things I’m passionate about and I wanted to place myself in close proximity to those things. I wanted to keep my thoughts on those things.

I shared with people how much I valued and appreciated them. I agree that an attitude of gratitude can change things. Opening yourself up to people, finding ways to help other people and do nice things for people just from your heart can do wonders.

Appreciating the small things and being happy for other people when good things happen to them and being that way for real. Not in a phony way.

There’s no one way to have the “breakthrough.” You have to break through and that requires work. It requires a bit of risk-taking and stepping out to really examine what’s in your heart, what’s important to you, what your values are and what you believe in and doing things that bring you closer to that. It seems like the rest follows from there.

Being grateful for what you have right now and realizing that you’ve already got a lot and have what you need puts things into perspective. If you are never satisfied, you will never be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with setting new goals and wanting more, but you should take time to take inventory of what’s good right now and how far you’ve come.

Another friend this week mentioned that I tend to have a positive outlook on life. Once again, it threw me off, because I know the times I felt like I was swirling around the toilet of life. But I take it all as a compliment and a blessing and if people can see a positive light in me, I’m blessed.

The original friend who asked me about the breakthrough, I asked her about what she was passionate about and I encouraged her to pick up the phone and volunteer for an organization that supports what she loves. She may not be getting paid for it now, but an opportunity could come later. We all got to pay bills and that’s real, but I keep learning when there’s something burning in your heart, if you take a step in that direction and do some of the inconvenient, uncomfortable work, you will get to where you want to be.

Breakthrough.

Then and Now: On Writing Stuff Down

A very long time ago I wrote a post about the power of writing things down.

This blog, in itself has been therapy for me, it’s been a motivator and it’s held me accountable. You folks who take the time to read it and offer comments and encouragement have also helped me along the way.

As I’m cleaning out my desk at work, and my final week at my job is coming to a close, I found a memo pad. Of course I found memo pads, I’m a journalist. We have way too many.

But as I looked in the pad, I found that I wrote a lot of random thoughts, tee-shirt designs, scriptures and drawings or simple things on my mind along with work stuff and research and reminders.

I’m going to share with you one series of thoughts I wrote down and I wrote down the date too, but not the year, after digging through the rest of my notebook, I may have written this in March of 2013.

I want to be happy.

I do not want to be upset or miserable.

I do not want to push people away.

I do want to take risks.

I do want to trust my feelings/gut.

I want a new job.

I either want to buy a house or rent a great place I love.

I want to travel.

I don’t want to be uncertain.

I want to be loved.

I want someone to understand me.

I don’t want to complicate things.

I want to be courted.

I want to feel secure.

I want to be healthy.

I want to be in shape.

So, this morning, I smiled at the person who wrote those desires and next to each point, I wrote back.

I want to be happy. I feel pretty good. June 18, 2014.

I do not want to be upset or miserable. I’m not!

I do not want to push people away. I feel even closer to my family and friends and God. No man though. LOL

I do want to take risks. I held a stingray two weeks ago. I went snorkeling in the ocean. THE OCEAN! I’m leaving my job after 7 years. I’m currently in grad school. No scholarships this time baby. LOAN.

I want a new job. I repeat. I’m leaving my job this week, after 7 years for a new, amazing opportunity. And girl, we about to get paid… and girl we about to craft national/global messages on mental health. Ya heard me?

I either want to buy a house or rent a great place I love. My place is cool just the way it is and it suits me for this period in my life. The rent to damn high though, but I bet you’ll be outta there in the next two to three years. Bet.

I want to travel. Boo, we’ve been to Curacao, Durham, the Cayman Islands, and Kansas City in the last nine months. International twice! You were just in the Caymans two weeks ago and Kansas City three days ago. Holla.

I don’t want to be uncertain. That’s going to happen sometimes. Know God will keep you in the safe space so you can get it together.

I want to be loved. Girl bye. Bye Felicia. You on some self-pity type stuff right now. God loves us, the fam loves us, we got us some great friends. And we are getting a hang of this loving ourselves thing more and more. You’ll be aight, pumpkin.

I want someone to understand me. We are of the aquarius kind. We are aloof and mysterious and always thinking high, lofty, deep, far-reaching thoughts. Folks don’t have to understand you all the time, but they should respect you, they should listen to you when you speak. They don’t have to understand you all the time, just stand in your truth daily. That’s it. That needs to be enough for you. Do everything from a place of truth, do everything from your heart. Don’t do stuff that doesn’t feel right to please other people. You have a right to opt out.

I don’t want to complicate things. Then don’t. We are way too busy right now for extracurricular foolishness. But do remember closed mouths don’t get fed. Your definition of complicated ain’t like everyone else’s. There are times you over use your right to remain silent. Speaking up for yourself may rock the boat or complicate things, but sometimes you have to do it. Don’t be afraid of that. If you do things from your heart, if you take care of yourself without belittling or tearing down others, that is not making things more complicated.

I want to be courted. I concur. You ain’t never lie.

I want to feel secure. Nothing wrong with that either.

I want to be healthy. We’re doing okay in that department, but we need to work out wayy more, more sleep and a better diet.

I want to be in shape. We still want that, but we seriously got to get it together. We’re traveling now, but we were way too winded running to catch that flight last week. Just saying.

 

 

 

Let It Go, Keep It Gone

When I graduated from college (gasp) 10 years ago, I basically said as a journalist, I wouldn’t need graduate school. It would be a waste of my money and frankly anyone who was doing it who didn’t want to teach journalism was down right crazy.

10 years ago, I thought I’d be a journalist forever, working into old age and migrating to the editorials, sharing my wisdom until I finally died. And the world would mourn the loss of my great voice that led them through their days, that analyzed the issues and the moments we’d hardly forget.

I would be one of the great contemporary American voices.

Eh, that didn’t happen, or it just may happen. But not in the way I thought it would.

I thought that I’d never go to graduate school or even need it. The life I planned for myself seemed to suggest that, and for that life, coming to that conclusion just made a whole lot of sense.

It amazes me how life shifts. If you’re smart, you’ll take a step back, and look at the broader picture and how what you were doing ten years ago, or six years ago was leading you to right now, whether you are in a good place in your life or a bad one.

Three years ago I was miserable. I saw nothing but darkness. I was broken, I was sleep walking through my life and my job, collecting a check and just getting out of the bed each day was a major accomplishment. I was heartbroken and angry. I felt the rug was swept from under me when my relationship ended and my engagement was suddenly over.

Once again, I had made plans for my life. I thought I knew what it was supposed to look like and that’s what I was going for. That’s what I knew to do.

Out of one of the most lengthy painful experiences in my life, I had to be broken all the way down, to be rebuilt. I had to learn about humility, and the amount of control I truly had over MY life. No one else’s. I could only be in control of me. I could only be in charge of my emotions and how I reacted to a situation.

I had to learn that there is no dishonor in failure, but in truth there is strength. In my truth, in my self-discovery and in my self-correction, there was strength.

When you are broken down and in the pit, you have no one but you to look at, because let’s face it, your loved ones love you, but they don’t want to be in the pit with you. They can’t be in the pit with you. You gotta be like Batman and figure out how to fight fear and get out on your own; you have to want freedom beyond your fear of death or injury or discomfort or inconvenience in order to be free.

So I think about where I am now and what it took to get me here.
It took everything I had at each stage. The hope is that my arsenal of everything is continuing to grow, so each time I have more to give. But up until now, I had just enough “everything” to propel me to the next stage. I’ve said this before. “Love the emotion is effortless but the execution of love requires all of the effort you’ve got.” And that same, exhaustive execution of love has to be applied to yourself, first. I had to learn that and I’m still learning that. Love yourself to exhaustion.

There’s a saying that when you know better, you do better. At least you are supposed to do better. You will not grow without pain or discomfort. You have to stretch, you have to fall, you have to take a bump or bruise. If you do not grow, if you don’t produce new cells, you atrophy and die, you are more susceptible to injury and illness. We have to live up to the responsibility that comes with the knowledge our mistakes and bad choices give us. It’s on us to self-correct. It’s an ugly, lonely, exhausting work. No one is patting you on the back or holding your hand because this kind of work is not designed that way. It’s on you. And it’s brutal. It’s God saying, you have to grow up, baby. Live up to who you are supposed to be, I’m not going to magically do it for you. As Iyanla said, “Do the work.” We gotta do it. I’m still doing it and I get grateful for every bit of insight I pick up along the way. When it clicks, even when I realized I handled something the wrong way, I’m grateful I can see it. I’m grateful I’ve tapped into something that opens me up and allows me to see MORE, to see beyond what my little feeble mind couldn’t before. I’m grateful I can acknowledge when it happens.

The other night, I was in prayer and I was crying and thanking God for the people he had to forcefully remove from my life because I wouldn’t let them go otherwise. Then I thanked him for the people who have stayed and who he allowed me to grow with and the people who showed up when they were supposed to and made their exit when the season ended. It was a release. It was a moment. It was like that saying you can’t receive with a balled up fist. You can’t get something greater holding on to something you are so scared to lose. Some stuff, some people, you got to let it go and keep it gone.

You have to keep evolving to survive.
So that brings me back to grad school. Going back to school was something I thought for years I just couldn’t do, and had no desire to do.

But I had to keep living. Then I saw the necessity, then I saw the purpose. Then I saw myself on the other side, being way more than I originally imagined. On the other side, this new vision of myself, I’m really strong. I’m strong enough to be a better friend and mentor and leader, but not the kind of person who isn’t accessible. This better, faster, stronger version of me is frightening because of her transparency, her confidence and her rock solid belief in truth. The new vision of myself is scary, because it requires more from me and it may take more bumps and bruises to prepare me to ultimately be that person and be strong enough to help others. It’s growth, it’s evolution, it’s being proactive in my destiny. It’s listening to the inner voice and trusting it. It’s being shamed out of laziness and into action. It’s being shamed out of future regret. It’s knowing life is precious and we better do something with it. Studying biology and the environment in an odd way is making me even more in awe of God. You’d think it would be the other way around. How complicated the science of life is, but how perfect it is too. The systems put in place to regenerate and repair; the things always set in motion in an attempt to maintain balance– to keep things clean, to fight off negative forces.

I digress.

I’m not who I was 10 years ago. I’m certainly not who I was three years ago. I’m proud of who I was in all stages because I had to be that person to be who I am now. There were lessons those times taught me that inform my choices today, that shape my new voice that can help others to grow.

I had to go through the things I went through, I had to get mature, I had to change. Were some of my experiences drastic? Yes. My situations got more drastic when I wanted to hold on to something bad for me the most. God had to force me to let them go in painful, grueling ways until not only did I realize I had to let them go, I had to keep them gone.

Vision Boards May Be A Window to the Subconscious

Over the weekend, I sat down with a friend. We had wine, we caught up and we made vision boards.

My friend had already started one and it seemed like she could never finish it, and well, it was time for me to make a new one.

Hers was filled with images and words dealing with marriage and babies.

Mine said absolutely nothing about marriage or babies, or rings or wedding dresses. My board seemed to be more about self-esteem, encouragement, fitness, travel and me starting grad school next month. I did mention love and faith and spirituality, but nope. Nothing concrete about relationships. Which is odd, because it’s a prevailing thought in my mind, day in and day out.

So once we pointed out those differences in our boards, I went back to my house that night thinking, dang, I want love. So what’s up with that? Maybe I should be MORE specific.

Maybe I should devote a vision board strictly to love and relationships.

So Sunday, I put on some music, broke out the art supplies and old magazines and I got to work.

The border of my vision board, I wrote all kinds of words that I think are crucial to a happy, healthy, mutually beneficial relationship.

It seemed like I focused on the concepts of partnership, trust, honesty, courage, friendship, having fun together, traveling, trying new things, passion, respect.

I finished my very nice-looking board, and once again. No marriage, no mention of the m-word. No babies. I only used the words family and home. I cut out no photos of brides or babies or dresses or rings or flowers.

I did cut out a photo of a man and woman kissing and the woman was wearing a ring. The only other images I cut out were of a couple relaxing and sleeping together cuddled up in a hammock and another couple on a beautiful island, having a special, romantic dinner.

So after I finished, I looked at this board again surprised at my choices.

I don’t think it was conscious. I strictly wrote down things I felt, things that were most important to me and I cut out words and images that spoke to me, so that’s what made this exercise even more eye-opening.

What can I take away from this?

Do I want to be married? Ever?

Yes, I think I do eventually, but not now. I clearly need to feel completely secure in my next relationship and my focus is on building, building, building, feeling safe, feeling loved, feeling appreciated. I put down all of the things I knew I needed. And maybe in the past I hadn’t taken the time to really, really delve into the things I needed. I just hoped the person I was with could give me those things whether they could or couldn’t and I went along with the program. Maybe in the past I didn’t know all of the things I really needed.

Do I want kids? Ever?

If you’ve read my blog, you know I’m on the fence about having children. So it’s still a big question mark.

I’ve been telling a lot of my friends about the vision boards, and they’ve all been very interested and asking me how to do it. So here we go. There’s a number of ways you can go about it.

When I was working on my tee-shirt company and preparing for the GRE those were goal-specific.

I put down goals, and even deadlines for those goals. And I’d cross things I completed off. I’d paste words and pictures that were related and inspired me.

The boards I made this weekend were general. But I do think that the more specific your board, the more you can analyze it and drill down what you need to do in order to accomplish whatever your vision is. My general board showed me that I really want to be more physically fit, I want to do well in school and I want to travel and I want to be happy and feel good about myself.

The love board showed me a lot about myself and what I expect from a partner, which in turn might be a great thing to share with a guy who may actually have a chance. That board can serve as a reminder if any man I’m dealing with is lacking in certain areas, then I can articulate what I want and need.

So my suggestion is, for whatever kind of board you make, break out old magazines, glue, stickers all of that good stuff. Be relaxed and comfortable and devote some time to it. Don’t rush. I may have worked on my boards for two or three hours. If you don’t finish in one sitting, that’s okay too. I prefer finishing it so I can take a good look at it.

My friend made positive, affirming sentences out of some of the words and phrases she cut out. That’s also a good idea. The point is to pick out things that really stick out to you. I like taking things from magazines because you can’t predetermine what folks put in the magazine. What you see and how you apply it to your vision will be very unique to you and you’ll cut out certain words and certain images because it says something to you that someone else may not see.

So hey, if any of you make a vision board, please let me know how it goes and if you see something in it that you didn’t expect. This was really enlightening and it was a lot of fun and relaxing.

 

Treat Me Like A Lady

I wrote a post awhile back about vulnerability being one of the greatest gifts of womanhood. We make it look beautiful and through our example, we can create an atmosphere for others to do the same when in our presence. It’s something that should be applauded and celebrated.

But let us talk about reality.

Within the confines of romantic relationships, we can only be as vulnerable as we are trusting of the person we lay our burden down to.

Go ahead, retweet that.

So what does that mean?

Our romantic partners have to earn our trust. Our romantic partners have to show us stability and loyalty and discretion. Can they keep our secrets? Are they quick-tempered? Are they judgemental? Do they make us feel absolutely comfortable? Can we be ourselves around them? Can we be our silliest self? The nerd? The freakiest freak? Are our partners open and honest? Are they judicious with their words? Are they being genuine? Do they think about how they respond and react to us? Do they anticipate our reactions because they truly know who we are? Our thoughts? When we are being irrational? When we need support?

I come from a long line of very strong-willed, fiercely independent and free-spirited women. I surround myself with friends who come from the same ilk.

I have friends who have endured physical and emotional abuse, death of dear loved ones, great loss. We (I’m including myself) have battled depression, we’ve questioned ourselves, we sometimes didn’t like what we looked at in the mirror.

We’ve had very, very horrible days and equally horrible thoughts. Thoughts that brilliant, beautiful, smart, talented women are told that we shouldn’t have.  We’ve contributed to the caricatures painted of us as superwomen, because we don’t want people to know that underneath the great clothes, the pretty hair, the degrees and success, that we cry alone non-stop til our heads are throbbing with pain, we worry about our futures, we get scared and shame ourselves for even feeling this way– as natural and human is it is. We’ve convinced ourselves that sucking it up is the best way and that we have to do it alone, because no one else will do it right, or even understand us.

But we’re wrong. We aren’t using the grand gift of vulnerability. And smart, independent women are always supposed to use our gifts.

It’s crazy to think this way. But when I think of having a man enter my life, I am a realist. He does have his hands full.

As tough as I think I am, I am equally fragile. I’m more fragile. I’m made up of so many things– my flaws, my strengths, my fears, my accomplishments, my grit, my wit. It will take a special kind of person to look at my messy self and see the mess, and see the beauty still shining through.

I told a friend today that the essence of what I want in a man is this: Someone who makes me feel like a lady.

I think there is a distinction. I’m a woman. Every damn day. I’m doing what I gotta do, I’m working, I’m paying bills, I serve as support to my family and friends and co-workers and I take these things on gladly.

But when I’m a lady, my main purpose is to be light and fabulous and sexy and mysterious. When my man allows me to be a lady, he figures out the details. I just show up and I’m a stunner. I am on his arm, without a care and he handles the rest and I’m confident that he handles it. I won’t micromanage, I won’t emasculate. I won’t even reach for my purse. He takes care of me, he dotes on me and he is in awe of me.

I want a man I can chop it up with like the homies, I want to be madly in love and feel passion. I want to share my thoughts and fears and dreams with no reservation. And I want him to make me feel like old Hollywood. Like silk. Like Chanel number 5, like pearls and pill box hats, and mink stoles and red lipstick and stockings with back seams. He MUST make me feel like a lady. And as a modern woman, there is nothing wrong with being strong and independent and wanting that too. I don’t want to make all of the decisions. I don’t want us to assign gender roles to how we express our feelings. You’re acting like the man! You’re acting like the woman!

We react to things, the way that we do because of so many factors. Because of how we were raised, because of whatever life has done to us along the way. We are simply acting and reacting like ourselves. If a man cries, and shares how he is feeling, he is not acting like a woman. If a woman cusses, or if she won’t cry, she is not acting like a man. People are acting and reacting in ways that are most natural to who they are.

If a person earns your love and your trust. Be vulnerable. Take it to the next level. Push back the fear, and give them a shot to love you more deeply. It’s a risk and that person has to deserve it. But if they’ve proven themselves. Do it.

32 to life??? Coming Soon… Real Soon

This blog is called 29tolife. I started it when I was 29, because I was on some kind of journey to 30. I was full of hope and promise thinking 30 would magically unlock doors into who I REALLY am.

So in just a few weeks, I’ll already be 32.

So has being 30 been magical? 31? Yes and no.

This blog has allowed me to examine myself and my situations that come up in such a raw way, I feel alive. I feel. My voice has sound. I’ve never been this self-aware in my entire life. And for those of you who have been rocking with me since the beginning, I really thank you. I’ve shared things with you, that I haven’t shared with others.

Or by telling you first, it gave me just enough courage to speak my mind when necessary, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball.

Maybe being in my 30s was the most insightful, raw, real, emotional, life-affirming time, because I shared it. Writing this blog exposes me.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

But it strengthens me too. It allows me to be bolder in my real life everyday experiences, and reminds me my voice has a sound. Which means, it’s meant to be heard. My thoughts and my ideas have value. My words can help folks and my words can cut down. How can I be responsible with my words, and still express myself in the ways that are necessary to me?

I’m finding in my 30s minimalism has been growing in importance. What do you want? What do you need? It seems like those questions are the first two I’ve been asking myself across situations and they apply. They fit and once I’ve answered those questions, I’m well on my way to solving my problems or figuring out the resources I have or need to get, to get the job done.

In my 30s focusing on what’s important to ME has seemed to be on the forefront too. I’ve learned in my 30s that focusing on me isn’t necessarily selfish, which is what folks would have you believe. Especially as women. Be a team player, sacrifice yourself for others that is the noble thing to do. And being a team player, standing up for people, nurturing people is an excellent thing, but when you are weak and tired and lacking strength because you didn’t say no one too many times or didn’t take the time to acknowledge what you wanted, you help no one. And you feel used and abused and mad because no one is bending over backwards to take care of you.

I don’t want to be a tired, haggard, bitter woman. I want to bring light to people I encounter, and if they need me, I want to have my strength to do a good job, but not to my own detriment.

I talk a lot about love and relationships in this blog, especially romantic ones, but in my 30s, I don’t think I’ve appreciated my friendships and relationships with family as deeply as I have in recent years. I’m very thankful for that.

When I started this blog, I was in a deep pain from the ending of a relationship.

You’ve seen me battle with my feelings toward my ex and the roller coaster ride I’ve voluntarily gone up and down with him on. I do believe I’m healed. Even on the days where I’m not so sure, three years later, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s without him.

You’ve seen me struggle with all sorts of characters and realize what kind of man I want and don’t want. The mistakes have been many.

I’ve traveled a little, and I’ve learned about new passions and interests. And at the age of 32, after being out of college for a decade, I’m going to take the jump and go to grad school. I’m not sure if I would have been as inspired to do it, if it wasn’t for sharing my thoughts and fears and frustrations with you on this blog. It may have become yet another dream deferred.

There were lots of things I used to fear. Talking about faith. Talking about sex. Talking about my mom, and her struggle with mental illness, talking about my flaws.

And by golly, on this blog, I’ve done all of that. And you listened. And you shared your thoughts too and affirmed me and the random thoughts that sometimes haunt me at night and greet me in the morning.

Being in my 30s, I want to live. I want to be hopeful. I don’t want to be jaded. I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to be proud of where I’ve been and who I am right now in this moment. I have high hopes for 32, because I’m taking chances this year. I’m stepping out of the comfort zone and I’m allowed to be proud of myself for that.

Will my love life come around? We’ll have to wait and see.

As you’ve seen with the blog, every time I open up my arms, (and sometimes legs) filled with hope, someone lets the air out of my balloon and I have to start all over again.

But maybe that’s part of the lesson of 30. The lesson of life. That if you opened your eyes today, and took that conscious breath, you are starting all over again. There is something still in you, your spirit is not broken enough not to try again, not to run full speed towards the football like Charlie Brown. Life is precious. Don’t stop running.

In your 30s you think about all sorts of things, your health, your mortality. The mortality of your beloved parents. You see them aging and you get a little ok, a lot scared. You see your children or nieces or nephews growing up, a very clear sign that you are indeed getting older, moving along in this world to make room for those yet to come. So what are you doing while you are here in the now? In the precious beautiful now?

I think having the opportunity to be old is a blessing. And I want to be a happy, healthy, spunky old lady that looks back with no regrets and has the best stories to tell her descendants.

I’ll be 32 soon. That’s not old. But it ain’t 16 or 21. And Thank God.

It’s 32. And it will be whatever it is, just like 30 and 31. I’ll just be glad to see it and take what it will bring.

I don’t think the content of the blog will get dull in this next year. As long as I keep living and as long as I’m me. And yall know me… It’s never dull.

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