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Archive for the category “Responsibility”

One Of the Most Adult Things One Can Purchase

Probably the most boring yet necessary adultest-ass things one can purchase, has to, hands down, be a mattress.

That’s right folks a mattress.

When you need a new one, and you are in your 30s and beyond, your body is the first to tell you.

At first, it seems like a little ache here or there. And you think that you just need to go to the gym more. Stretch in the morning.

Then you get new pillows, or special memory foam cushions to put on the bed.

Then the aches and pains come more fast and furious. You can’t sleep and you find you have the best sleep ever on your couch and going back to that bed becomes unthinkable.

So you suck it up. Off to the mattress store you go.
Well off to the mattress store I went.

Fortunately, I had the boyfriend in tow, and it seems that going with a significant other, salesmen tend to assume you’re married, and say things like, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Fortunately, for me I have a boyfriend happy to play along and agree.

As, most web site searches tell you, the life of a mattress is 10 years. And so, my cheap mattress, purchased when I was heading to my very own first apartment alone, is probably heading into its 12 year. It served its purpose. It served me well. It makes sense that it is old, and I have the temporary daily lower back pain to prove it.

I joked that the timing was right for several reasons.

1. It is old as hell.

2. Well, back and shoulder and neck pain.

3. I work really hard, and a good night’s sleep is non-negotiable. Yall, that’s another post. This job is challenging and requires me to be on from the moment I get there until I leave.

4. My new serious relationship.
As for number 4, there’s nothing like being in a new, serious relationship. One where you’ve had a disagreement or two, made up and continue to learn how to deal with each other, support each other and feel like the other person just may stick around. You think about the future, and you are ready for the past to truly be that. Tossing the mattress is totally symbolic of where I am right now and where I’m trying to go.

I joked with a girlfriend that this fresh start relationship-wise, would be a great cleanse of whatever ghosts of ding-a-ling past lingering in the coils.

See, coils, where they do that at? Now, they do memory foam or a hybrid with a few coils and still the memory foam. I’ve moved on to a Tempurpedic memory foam. Growth! Progress! And real talk, this new relationship was totally worthy of not having any remnants of the past and that feels good.

These days, the mattress stores use computer technology to match you to a mattress. You lay down and watch a video and it measures all kinds of things about you and your partner on the other side. And it spits out the top mattresses in the store for you.

So, there were four. Hand-picked by technology that should agree with my body the most, and provide a good night’s sleep for my partner too. I had a good laugh during our diagnostic session, because as the computer measured us, I couldn’t help but notice the deep valley my butt made on the screen. Clearly, my booty is a factor in the alignment of my spine, hence probably contributing to my lower back issues when I wake up. Heavy is the butt that wears the crown, right?

Mattress shopping almost feels like shopping for a car or appliances, or other furniture. You deserve ice cream and a nap afterwards. You have in your mind what you think you want, and you certainly have in your mind what you want to spend and then what you’d spend at the very most. But once you get there, everything you thought about anything really gets thrown out the window. We were certain a firm ass bed was going to solve my lower back issues. The computer said, I still need a soft bed. And after I told the salesman to let us try their firmest bed as a “control,” I realized the computer was doing the Lord’s work. I defer to technology.

In pure salesperson fashion, our guy gives us increasingly better choices. The last choice, was the top of the line. It felt ridiculously comfortable and if either my boyfriend or I moved, we couldn’t feel the other person shifting. Oh man. That was the Cadillac. But, in this case it was more like the Saturn sales model, where the sticker price was just that, no negotiation. No sales, son. And your girl was not even trying to drop $3,000 on a mattress, no matter how lovely it was. So, I went with my second choice. The second choice was probably the third of the ones we tried anyway, just before we got to the dream mattress. It was the best of the ones prior, and the price was expensive, but acceptable in my opinion for the quality.

It is ironic, though, trying out mattresses. We go to sleep every night, and sometimes we share beds with people. It’s intimate, but it’s something we all do. Even when my boyfriend and I tried the mattresses, by the time we got to the third and fourth bed, we kept it all the way real and spooned to make sure it was right.

Here I was, adulting big-time, spooning in public and decided to double-down on the grown folk talk, even broaching future life scenarios with the boyfriend.

“So, um. Since folks buy mattresses every 10 years. Say our living situation changes within the next 2-3 years. We’d be merging furniture and such. Clearly mine would be new, and that could be ours and your current mattress which isn’t very old, could be for guests. Should I buy the dream mattress now, as, say an investment?”

Him smiling at me. “If I were in your situation, and I’m totally not telling you what to do… but I would be thinking the same thing. So we’re on the same page. But, I think this less expensive bed still feels nice, you’ll be happy with it and that’s the one you should get. Because 10 years from now, we’d easily be able to buy that more expensive mattress, together.”

I wasn’t sure if I was floating on a cloud or still laying on the $3,000 mattress, but I made my decision and I’m the proud owner of a new mattress and box spring. And I walked out hand-in-hand with a man who was happy to spend an afternoon testing mattresses, and basically telling me, he’s in it way past the warranty. Yep, out with the old. Good riddance.

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Sometimes You Just Can’t Live Up to Other’s Expectations, And It’s Perfectly Fine

I was living my life and enjoying a lovely day while hanging out with a friend. This is a similar friend who I’ve blogged about where we’ve had our ups and downs, and while this person may struggle with some issues, including mild narcissism which I came to this conclusion twice in the same day, I’ve decided to just accept this person as they are and do me.

So we’re hanging out, and all of a sudden she tells me she has to get something off her chest.

I knew where this was going. After spending a lot of emotional energy trying to help her get through some tough times last winter, which included cooking for her and staying at her home, we had an argument over something small.

It’s always something small, that sets me off. So I told her she has a short memory and comes at me for stupid things, yet she has other friends who she won’t hold accountable at all and that with the exception of one or two, I think they are all fake. And her crew goes round and round just being fake to each other and I can’t subscribe to that.

Well during this latest encounter, she wants to go back to that argument to chide me about not talking shit about her friends. I fight rolling my eyes.
Basically, this wasn’t really supposed to be a two-way conversation. And as she talked about me not being there for her, I realized I was in the presence of someone who needed more help and more attention than I’m qualified for.

I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, because I knew what I could give as a friend and what I couldn’t. All I heard was I need, I need and you didn’t and you weren’t there.

As usual, this person expected me to apologize and fall all over myself. I didn’t. I simply said, you need more support than I can give. I feel that you tend to deem your problems more severe than my own and while you may have gone through some very terrible things this year, I supported you as best I could, while navigating my own challenges. I did the very best I could. Do you have a mental health plan in place, because you need other people besides me.

I realized I was in a love languages situation. This person is most certainly a quality time person and thrives on being surrounded by family and friends all the time, while for me, I like physical touch.

At this point I knew I had to be somewhat special, because I do believe I have been doing my best, even though there are times where I get tired of people. I want to spend time alone to gather my thoughts and simply rest.

I’m used to loving a lot of people from a distance because geographically they aren’t close. I’m used to the people in my life having an understanding that I love them and will do what I can for them.

Can I improve? Yes. But I think there is a line, there are some people who expect way too much and can’t see how one person can’t handle and take on all of the other person’s problems. When I asked her what she needed from me specifically, she couldn’t say. She just felt like I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I’m awful at checking up on people. I get wrapped up in the things I’m doing, or I think of people, but I’m way too tired to have a conversation where I’m truly present. That’s why when I do finally have conversations with folks on the phone, it can go to two hours easily. I want to be present. But maybe people really only need 10 or 15 minutes of me when they need me. It’s something I wrangle with.

I don’t like feeling guilty about whether or not I’m giving enough of myself to people, because I feel like it’s in direct competition with giving myself the self-care I need. I hate to see people in pain. My mind immediately goes to thinking of ways to solve a friend’s problem or figuring out the right thing to say. But it’s exhausting.

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But there are times, emotionally where I feel like I need to put my oxygen mask on first, and friends like the one I’ve mentioned seem to feel like me doing that is disrespectful or neglectful to their needs.

I’ve decided in terms of that friendship, I have to be ok with where I am with certain friendships. I already decided a long time ago, that I accept this person and I can’t imagine them not in my life, but sometimes keeping a distance works best for me, but it doesn’t work so well for her. I told that person, that by now they should know me and that my intentions are always good, and I am always concerned, and always want the best for her, but I cannot keep vigil over them 24 hours a day and I can’t be expected to drop everything in my life, for every crisis this person may have everyday. It’s unfair to have that expectation. And this is where other support has to come in, and professional support.

I worry about the boundary lines of where her responsibility lies within herself, and where I’m supposed to come in with support. I feel no person should feel like they are alone, but there are times we all feel that way. We have to spread the responsibility of support around to those who love us. We cannot offload the lion’s share of our worries, pain and neuroses on just one person. But we do have to think of constructive ways to tackle our internal issues and do the work. We won’t grow if we get our fix of having someone just be there to distract us from what’s really eating us. And I think primarily, she likes the distraction and to feel like someone will drop everything for her to feel valued. And that’s a false sense of security, which leads her right back to where she started as soon as someone can’t keep that up. And I think that’s even true of romantic relationships. You can’t drain your human resources just as you would any other resource.

We have to figure out ways to improve our self-care techniques with outside support as a companion to a multi-pronged approach to our emotional well-being. And that may be really challenging, but I think it has to be done.

I love my friends, but I should be allowed to have the space to speak up and say I have limitations. I may disappoint you sometimes, as you may disappoint me. May we not have short memories for the times we offered our support in just the right way, may we have the strength to offer the best support possible when our friends need us most.

Family Financial First Aid: When You Know Better, Do Better and Pass it on!

Nothing can make you feel more empowered and in control as understanding your finances, making solid decisions and watching your money grow.

Nothing can make you feel as out of control, inferior and in panic and chaos as NOT understanding your finances, making poor decisions and feeling like you’ll never get out of the hole.

I’m not wealthy, I’m not rich. I really don’t have a whole lot in my retirement, but I’m proud of the time I made up in my 20s in the last couple of years.

I realized that upping the contributions to my 401k at my last job was a smart thing to do. I’ve changed two jobs in about two years, and when I left each job, I rolled my 401k investments into an IRA.

When things got funky with my financial aid this past semester (don’t even get me started my blood pressure has finally returned to a normal state), even though it was part of my “last resort,” borrowing money from my IRA was an option that saw me through a tough time.

I grew up in a middle class family, but my parents– neither of them college grads, but who did better than their parents, did not have a financial education. They winged it.

While my dad is a very intelligent person, he fears credit cards and hates debt of any kind.

My mother, also a very intelligent person, had addictions to store credit cards, as evidenced by our bi-weekly trips to the local department store to pay her bill, and the harassing calls after she lost her job.

So once I got a job and was given an application in high school, I got a credit card and quickly built my credit line to the point where as a college junior I had a $5,000 limit. Being young, dumb and at Howard, where the most fashion-forward folks go to get educated, I surprisingly didn’t squander my good credit on clothes. It was actually footing the bill for spring break to book planes and hotels for me and my friends and paying for my boyfriend’s car repairs (because how else will he get to work?).

In my early 20s, the joy of getting a full-time job after college and seeing larger checks in a low cost-of-living state had me living beyond my means and depending on overdraft protection, acting like it really was my money.  I assumed the overdraft fees as just the cost of doing business and kept it moving without a care .

It took a very, very long time and a five-year financial education program to help me improve my credit and pay down my debt. It was a proud moment to be eligible for a good credit card again, and in comparison to the last time I purchased a car, to go from having an 18% interest rate for a used car about 5 years old to an 8% interest rate the next time I purchased a same year model, brand new.

That’s where the feeling of being in control and accomplishment kicks in. But that feeling had to come from making some big mistakes, and then doing what it took to correct them.

I didn’t necessarily fear credit, but I needed to learn that it was a tool. Unfortunately, my father’s mindset that all debt is bad didn’t help, and neither did my mother’s habit of paying a card off, so you can just get more stuff, in a constant never-ending cycle didn’t shape the best habits in me either.

I am, however thankful for having friends who discuss stocks and watch stock tickers on the news and discuss them with their parents casually as if they were discussing sports scores. And I’m slightly jealous of the edge those financially-conscious parental gave my friends, that I just didn’t have.

Like my parents, who surpassed their parent’s earning potential, here I was with a college degree, but financially, I was winging it too. Having to figure it out on my own.

One of my best friends has been buying and selling stocks for years and her parents taught her to do so. At 33, I finally asked her for help today, mentioning how I admired that in her household discussing finances is as normal and healthy as saying good morning. And she’s excited to do it and already looking up some educational classes around the next time I visit home.

It never hurts to ask for help. We are often shrouded in silence when it comes to matters of money, because we don’t want others to know how much we have, or don’t have. I was particularly interested in investing more aggressively, because I want to replenish the funds I had to take from my IRA, and while I put aside money from my paycheck to pay it back, as a single, childless person, who isn’t in her 20s anymore, my window is closing to be as aggressive as I could have been if I started thinking about money more seriously in my 20s.

While some of my friends still live at home with their parents because it is so expensive, I realized I was pouring my money into high rents in the DC area for the last decade (and paying off my college-incurred debts for half a decade), and they were learning how to be aggressive with their investments, taking advantage of the financial power staying at home with the ‘rents can provide, so they can eventually leave the nest and afford to maintain.

Having a household that talks about money openly is healthy. We have to remove stigmas around modest living or what the reality of your financial situation is. It takes hard work and discipline, but building good financial habits is something that’s crucial to your future and that of your family.

I appreciate everything my family has done for me, so I’m not knocking them at all, but I can’t help but wonder what other kinds of goals and dreams my parents could have accomplished if they had the tools.

From time-to-time, my father asks me about how much I make. I now artfully avoid it after the one year I told him, and his eyes widened and said, “You’re almost catching me.” Yes, I do think my dad is trying to be in my business, but I also think it’s a matter of him feeling like some financial progress is being made and his baby girl is secure and successful and that hopefully, by some chance I’m making better decisions than he did. Sometimes he says it outright, relieved that I’m an adult to be able to really understand his point.

While my parents have never asked me for money, I do care about their lives as they enter their golden years. A part of me wonders that because I am still single and without a family of my own, and geographically closer than my sister, who does have a family, will I have to really step up for them and how will I be prepared to do so in a way that is respectful and commensurate with how wonderfully they provided for me, knowing some of their financial sacrifices and missteps will contribute to how comfortable their retirement years will be?

I don’t know the answer to all of those questions. And as a family, we’ll have to work together to figure them out.

What I do know is unlike my parents, I have way more access to information than they ever did.

The Internet is a great equalizer. Just this morning, I’ve read several Forbes articles on how to get started with the stock market and I’m energized and excited. There’s so much to learn and I’m mature enough to get help and figure out how to make my financial future and that of my family’s a whole lot brighter.

 

 

 

Downsizing

Today was the final straw.

Every year, you all know I complain about my rent increasing and how I get really upset about it. Every. Year.

Well, my lease isn’t up until late April, however a recent email from the new management had me livid. Parking is a serious issue in my complex, but now they’ve made matters even worse by offering “premium parking” for an additional $35 per month that gives you an assigned space in front of your building.

One more way to squeeze more money out of us and force me to think of other living situations. Pay for a space? It’s not covered for the winter. Like are you really kidding? I’m over it.

And maybe I’ve jumped to conclusions, but now I really want out. It’s not just the parking space, but it’s the rising rent in a place where I haven’t seen any new and improved amenities and with ever-changing parking rules that really discourage my friends from wanting to visit or hang out all night for being towed.

So in my anger, I started looking for new apartments, all of which are ridiculous and it hurts my soul to pay more than what I’m paying to move. I can afford to pay a bit more, but I honestly don’t want to. It’s wrong.

A good friend of mine owns her townhouse and has had a steady stream of tenants over the years. We’ve made jokes about me moving in with her before and this time, I’m actually serious about it.

The other times I could have moved in with her, I was proud and I felt like it was a reflection of my independence and where I was in life to have my own place. I’ve realized that common sense trumps pride. I make enough to still live on my own and even pay more money for rent and not go hungry. But I simply don’t want to.

At this point, I don’t care anymore. I’m not dating, I don’t have a man who will come over, and my life is filled with school. I hardly cook, so I don’t use my kitchen very often, I actually need to go through everything in my house that I’ve accumulated and do a super cleanse, so this may be a very good idea.

My furniture and art and books would go into storage. I’d give away a lot of shoes and clothes.

The idea would be to live with the friend for six months to possibly a year. Besides, after school, I have no clue where my life will lead and I’m actually open to completely leaving the DC area if that’s what it takes. If I’m saving money on rent, I could travel more or just save period and not scramble for deposits when I am ready to move back into my own place.

The other positive that makes this decision work out better this time is with my new job the commute from her house wouldn’t be as bad as my old commute.

I’m open to it. I complain that I’m often lonely and having another person in the house does help with that.

At this point I’m almost ready to move immediately, thinking about the money I’d save and decluttering my life and forcing myself to make it work with one room.

It may be the most liberating thing I’ve done yet. It’s not a move backwards as I used to think having a roommate at this stage of my life was. It may be jumpstart to the new phase in my life I’ve needed.

Grading Yourself

It’s no secret that I suck at my epidemiology class.

I’ve spared yall most of the gory details of how horrible the last 9 weeks have been. I look forward to this module coming to a close for a variety of reasons. Last week, when I was at the worst of being sick, I gave up. I said forget it and didn’t even bother to show up to class. The week before I looked a hot mess and proceeded to go to bed and not go to work the next day. I digress.

Residual I don’t give a fuckness was all over my work ethic for school last week, especially that class. So, when I had an assignment due on Friday night, I threw up my hands and said it was something I couldn’t face or couldn’t deal with and I’ll accept a zero. I’ll be a grown up and accept it.

As my health started to improve especially by Sunday, I found myself drawn back to the material. I took the pressure off of the deadline that I’d already missed and I sat with my books and notes and I even went back to watch the recording of the class I missed. And I took notes.

I wasn’t doing this for a grade, I already made the conscious decision not to try and by default fail that assignment. I was learning for the sake of learning. I was learning for myself because I didn’t  want to feel defeated. I found that I was getting it right and when I got it wrong, I knew why I was getting it wrong. There was a certain level of self-satisfaction that came over me.

So as I sat in class tonight and she mentioned the assignment and how she’d grade them by the end of the week, I said even if I didn’t understand the rest of it, I wanted to hand in the section that I worked so hard on. Again, Damn a grade, I want proof that my hard work and practice paid off.

So after class, I handed it what I did. It’s not finished by any means, but I sent my professor an email basically saying contrary to my lack of participation in class and my horrible grades, I’m not a quitter. I’m handing this in for me and I just want to see if I’ve improved. So whatever penalty comes with handing it in late, I accept. What I can’t accept is knowing I worked so hard over the weekend to improve on something and not show myself or my professor that I actually did put in the work to improve, even if it’s a small part of the assignment.

Some of the epiphanies I’m having about grad school includes the fact that my education really is for me.

I’m spending all of this money, for me.

It’s not about what my professor thinks. Hell, I didn’t even have to explain myself in the email, but I wanted to. I wanted to get those things off my chest for me. The email wasn’t even for my professor, it was an affirmation to myself that she can bear witness too. I could care less as to what her response will be and have told myself to not even worry about it. I actually prefer she grade my work and not respond to the email. But she will. She’s aware of the difficulty I’ve been having, but she’s been pretty much hands off unless I ask her about something. It’s grad school, we’re grown. It’s my education and not anyone else’s so I own that.

I certainly care about my grades, but for a class with this much hardship, I do have to take it to the basics of celebrating small victories and learning for the sake of learning and not for mastery of a topic. I don’t plan on nor do I want to be an epidemiologist, but I understand how this information will inform decisions I make and how I analyze information in the public health arena. So I don’t pooh-pooh the necessity of the course. I just wish that circumstances allowed me to just take that class alone instead of with another class, as I had done this semester. Lesson learned.

I will say this, the difference between when I’d get frustrated in a math class in high school and undergrad and now is, I let setbacks in those classes make me question my entire intelligence, which is absurd. I’m older and I know better. My participation and enthusiasm in my policy class is like night and day. I’m sure some of my classmates are tired of hearing me talk in that class. Those classmates would probably get some pleasure out of my silent frustration if they saw me in epidemiology.

So, back to the point of this whole thing. This is for me.

A smart person once told me when getting your graduate degree, it’s a lie to call it yours. It belongs to the school. They create the rules and you have to jump through hoops they establish to get it. You have no say in the matter. You earn the right to hold the degree, but it isn’t yours.

While I get the point that person made, I’m going to disagree. My education belongs to me and recognizing that, I didn’t let the machine totally get to me because I did the work for me this week, not for a grade. I’m competing against myself. And I knew if I went another day willfully not handing in that assignment, I would have been disappointed with myself.

I would have been even more disappointed if the few pitiful points I will earn for it (with late penalty) would have been the exact amount of points I needed to barely pass the class. And I deserved to give myself that chance at earning that potential down-to-the-wire, millisecond, photo finish.

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.

Be Yourself, Demand Love Unconditionally

Folks have said all the time to “be yourself.”

For a large part of your life, you swear they are lying.

You do what you deem is necessary to fit in at work, or to make friends, or to be in a relationship.

But those words are the truest words you’ll hear.

You just have to be brave enough to actually do it.

Why is it that something that should be as natural as being yourself so damn hard to do?

Well, it’s because we are acutely aware of our faults more than everyone else is, hence we have the power to alter it, mask it and pretend. But that only works but for so long. Folks who truly know you, know when you are genuine and when you are not and thank God.

The lies we tell ourselves are the worst and most potent and hardest to break and reverse.

The reason I’m on this kick today is because this morning I woke up with about 30 epiphanies. I had to text them to myself so I wouldn’t forget.

I went to a beautiful wedding this week of a fantastic college friend who I hadn’t seen in years.

She was absolutely stunning, but what made her glow all the more enchanting was she was truly happy. She loved that man and he clearly loved her. It was in the little things, the way she picked an eyelash off his face, and the way she still made silly faces with exaggerated eyes and smirks even in her formal photos. Every inch of that venue had her mark– from the songs she selected to the party favors. Individual, unique, simple, understated but not buttoned up.

The moment of the wedding that stopped my heart and hit me like a freight train was during her written vows.

She thanked her husband profusely for loving her for who she is. And I believed her. Those weren’t empty words. Even as she said it, she began to cry, and my eyes began to well. Because I know the impact of those words. And yet, I can’t think of a relationship where I completely felt like was loved exactly for who I was. I didn’t feel like I was enough in every last one and it was frustrating because I truly did my best in all. But it wasn’t on me, that was the thing I couldn’t control, even though I tried to. Either someone is going to love you for you completely, or they just won’t.

They will love you when your house is dirty or when it’s clean. They will love you if you gained some weight or if you stayed the same weight. They will love you and your child if that’s what you came to the table with. They will love you when you are sick and take care of you, as they will love you when you are healthy. They will think you are amazing if you are at the top of your career, and encourage you if you got laid off and can’t find work for a year.

I guess I’m afraid of that kind of love.

Because it’s actually real.

Because I can’t make excuses for it or why it didn’t work. To lose that kind of love would seem devastating, worse than the devastation I felt when the person didn’t love me that much, but I loved them that much.

I’ve said before that love is negotiable. And we have to keep coming to the table and reminding our loved ones what the terms are if they are slipping, and they should require that of us too.

I recently accepted a job. Go me!

I did something different this time.

I asked for what I wanted, what I felt I deserved in compensation and I was willing to keep it moving if they didn’t offer me the job or the salary I asked for. I had already made up my mind what I was willing to accept, and my friends asked well what if it’s this number but not that number? And I said, no. Something in my spirit said, no. This time you won’t take less than what you deserve, you’ve been doing it you’re whole professional life. You can get what you deserve even if it’s not this particular opportunity, this time around.

So it made me think, if I can have the courage to say no to a job if they aren’t coming correct with money, why am I so flexible when it comes to my most valuable possession? Me. My heart.

I had to laugh at myself.

I started thinking about all of the relationships where I broke my neck to be the perfect girlfriend, the cool girlfriend, the compassionate and understanding girlfriend who accepted men as they were, as broken and complicated… but I had to be the one that was whole, for the both of us.

I was broken and complicated too, in many ways. I needed just as much nurturing and care and occasional eggshell two stepping for my feelings too. I didn’t stand in my truth, I pretended that I was so strong that I could live without that, but still provide it.

I kept choosing men I felt I could make better and in some cases I helped in their progression. But I didn’t get the benefit. They’d go on to marry other women and blatantly give them the things they said they couldn’t give me. But I didn’t demand more of them, I didn’t threaten to leave if they didn’t. I don’t believe in holding anyone hostage in love, but I’m learning not expressing clearly what you need and what you want in a relationship is the worst thing you can do. Because if that person really wants to love you, you aren’t giving them the tools to do so properly. And if they don’t want to love you, and you don’t tell them, you can’t be mad that they disagree with the way you desire to be loved.

I was too afraid to say what I wanted. I thought that love was sacrifice and if they saw how much I gave, then clearly they’d return my love in a tangible, fulfilling way.

They didn’t.

And those words the bride said tearfully have rattled around my head since I’ve returned home.

By George, that was it, stupid. Be who you are completely and let him love you completely. Let him decide and if he doesn’t choose you, it’s not your fault, it’s not something you necessarily did wrong. Be strong enough and be fearless enough to be you. Say what you don’t like. Say what you want and what makes you happy. Say when you are upset and hurt.

I’ve often turned my nose up at the women who lash out and raise all kinds of hell when they are mad at their men, but the men do react. And of course they do, those women made it very clear that they were upset, and if the man really loved them, they were going to be about the business of correction.

I confused my silence for class, while being complicit in the demise of my own relationships and my own self esteem. I won’t let air out of tires, or burn clothes, but I have a mouth. My fear of rocking the boat should not be placed above my own happiness. There’s a balance. You don’t have to be a jerk, but you don’t have to be a pushover either. And I always had difficulty balancing that. I hated arguments because I had a fear that there would forever be a strike against me that I couldn’t come back from. But that’s not love.

I wrote in Facebook yesterday, that my father loves me unconditionally and has been ridiculously patient with me over the years. I was a curious, head-strong child who preferred learning the hard way. And he let me. But I always knew he was proud of me and that he thinks the world of me. In that post, I said my dad taught me that I deserve a man willing to fight for me, one who won’t take a day off or who will think the task of loving me is so daunting and intimidating and overwhelming, that he’d prefer to not even take a stab at it.

And these are the men I picked. They always went out with a whimper. And that always upset me. Why didn’t they fight for me? Why didn’t they try harder? But maybe I was the one who set the tone, don’t argue, don’t fight, be classy, move on.

But I got that wrong. Life is indeed a fight in itself, messy and tangled. There are tears and ugly cries, there are yells and screams that are not the end of the world, and that don’t mean you aren’t classy. Life leaves you with far more bruises and scars that fade with time, but don’t necessarily disappear, but it doesn’t subtract from the overall beauty of life. Those scars don’t negate our inner beauty, our true selves.

I was classy and crying alone in the dark. I was classy and falling apart on the inside or filling with rage on the inside.

There is catharsis is speaking your mind and your truth be it loudly or quietly. There is a time and place for everything.

I don’t place the blame entirely on me, because that’s what I would tend to do. But I did pick men who I allowed to have red flags and flaws up the wazoo and think it was healthy to love them despite of, but not give myself the same privilege.

And now, I know to do things differently.

He will love all of me, because I’m a rare and wonderful being to love. Even on my worst days.

Am I A Jerk?

The older I get and the longer I’m single, I really struggle with whether or not my reactions to dating and relationships are unreasonable.
After all, there’s compromise and give and take and thinking of others besides yourself.
But after moving my very hectic schedule around for a potential date with a handsome guy who says that I “talk too much” (see, I let that one go) “But sometimes you say really interesting things. I love that about you” I decided since I needed some handsome male energy, I’d stay up til the wee hours to write a paper that’s due tomorrow. A girl needs a little fun.
Welp, after confirming our date, he asks me if any of the places I had to suggest had televisions. I told him they did.
Then I told him I was hoping his focus would be on me.
“I will focus. But I really want to watch the game.”

For some reason, handsome or not. That text made me livid. I rushed to text my best male friend to help me react or not react, but he took too long. So I told my date we should postpone.

He hasn’t responded.

And that further shows me he’s not really that interested in me. Even though he claims he is.

If I’m going to move my schedule around and stay up all night to get my homework done, it needs to be worth it, for someone who values me and my time. I’m not playing second fiddle to the NBA Playoffs today. I forgot about this guy’s obsession with basketball. But I’m in no mood to compete for his attention tonight. I enjoy sports, but cmon, man. I do feel my reaction may be knee-jerk and I may be a little inflexible, but I also feel like I put a lot of effort into even taking time to go out with him. So looks like I’ll be in my sweats working on my paper tonight.
#Priorites.

I hate fighting with myself about not taking this L and possibly ending up alone for the rest of my life because I couldn’t accept a little basketball with my dinner and drinks.

Oh well.

Silencing the Noise

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have already heard that I quit Plenty Of Fish.

Like, I quit for real, for real. I didn’t just hide my profile and take a little break from it, I took myself out of the game completely.

There were a few times before where I thought about deleting the profile, but I’d get pulled in by another message from a new guy showing interest. Even if I wasn’t interested in them, it still made me feel wanted. So for that reason alone, even though I was getting pinged all day and all night because I had the app on my phone, it was a form of validation that I had been wanting that I, was indeed desirable.

The trouble with Plenty Of Fish is I’m not the only one.

If I don’t respond, the person on the other end really isn’t going to be heartbroken, he’s just going to click on another profile and try again. A catchy profile and some cute pics didn’t make me special. Inboxes full of faux admiration didn’t either.

I actually hated when dudes off the bat would call me sweetie, or love or gorgeous. It felt so… ugh. It felt so phony.

This weekend, I had a bunch of crazy revelations.

Somehow my good ex hit me up again on Friday night when I was doing absolutely nothing. So I started talking about dating and how difficult it’s become. I complained that it’s at a point where everyone is dating like robots, following a script.

Simply he just said, “You ain’t gotta. Do you.”

I don’t know why what he said seemed to just shoot through me like lightning, but it was so simple. It made so much sense. I don’t have to keep going on date after date. Introducing and reintroducing myself to men I’m really not that interested in, but trying to be “open-minded” too.

That message kept ringing true at not one, but two church services this weekend. The focus was on women in both. Both talked about loving yourself and giving things up so you can receive God’s blessings which may or may not include a man.

I had a thought today about Idols. I posted on twitter that “One way or the other, God will remove your idols. You determine how drastic He has to be in order to get your attention.”

Plenty Of Fish was becoming an idol. It was consuming a lot of my brain space. It was causing me to either be excited about people I knew nothing about or completely aggravated with people I knew nothing about. I was expecting people to be accountable and ready-made after one date. I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear anything from certain guys with whom I had great conversations. I’d replay what I’d done or if I wasn’t attractive enough.

But it all boils down to this, we are all out here doing the same thing. We are evaluating people on highly superficial levels and not taking the time to build. The possibility of the next, better person that you may be missing out on always seemed on the horizon and one click away. But that’s not real life.

I’m about to devote two years of my life to a master’s degree. I devoted four to college and 10+ to being a writer and reporter and editor. Cultivating anything takes time and effort. I have friends of 20 years. I know everything about them and they know me. It’s scary, but look at all the time it took to get to that level of mastery in my friendships, and I’m still working on them and giving to them and nurturing them.

One year of online dating and the revolving door of men wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. It was a great social experiment in what’s out there, but I realize right now, it’s not where I need to place my focus or my energy.

So I deleted my page.

My mind instantly got quiet again. I wasn’t turning over in the middle of my sleep when my phone started to buzz, or checking messages at a stop light. I wasn’t spending time “man shopping” when I was bored, looking at profiles hoping that there was some coded language my Mr. Right used so he could find me.

I didn’t have to be disappointed anymore.

I could focus.

Even today, I’m realizing the dating site was taking a lot of my good energy and brain space.

My good ex did remind me of how confident I used to be. He told me things like putting on weight or how I wear hair was not going to matter. And I was confident. I just have to get back to that again. I knew the first place to start was silencing the POF noise.

I’m not knocking the site at all. I think it does open the door to help you meet people you may have never otherwise met. But as I review the last year of online dating, people are either not quite serious at all, or they are so serious, they come of desperate and scary. Online dating pushes you to the extremes of non-committal or super clingy. You can’t even truly be you. You are always on, you are always auditioning for someone’s affections.

And nope. I don’t want to do that. Not anymore.

So I said a prayer. I said I wanted to give this up and not look back and whoever is for me, he’s already out there. It’s time to stop worrying about it and it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let go of my insecurities and shut up the NOISE, most of which I’ve created in my own head that has been limiting me.

Noise was making me settle and noise convinced me I was widening my net and not being picky or stuck up. But noise was causing me to entertain folks I really didn’t see any kind of future with at all. I tricked myself into thinking it was a numbers game and that it was science. The right guy would have to come around if I kept putting myself out there.

Well, putting myself out there made me lose valuable energy. Putting myself out there led me to making rash decisions.

I need my head space. I need it for things like work, and school and my family and friends. So right now, I honestly don’t feel like I took a loss, deleting my profile. I reclaimed space in my mind and soul.

I decided that if there were men in my phone who managed to have my number and we still keep in touch, I will be nice. I won’t press them to ask me out, I’ll let them ask me. If I feel like sending a text or saying hello, I’ll send one.

Sometimes you have to lose to win, as Fantasia said in one of her songs. I’ve never found myself leaning so much on God and my faith, or praying as often or looking at the little things to help me see other things more clearly. God is in the details.

When I was at EssenceFest and heard Iyanla Van Zant speak, she kept saying, “Do the work.” “You’ve got to do the work, beloveds.”

She is right. God didn’t let me marry the wrong person for a reason.

I’m single right now for a reason, not just to work on myself or take on bigger goals I would have never considered if I was someone’s wife right now. I’m made for a purpose and I’m working all of that out. The pain I’ve felt makes me more compassionate to others and it makes me qualified to love folks in a more real, mature, honest and even non-judgemental way. In the way a grown woman has to decide to love HER man. The one.

I used to pride myself on loving people through stuff even if it took all of my energy.

I was doing it wrong.

I had to learn that I had to put on my life-preserver first before I started helping others and that it is perfectly ok to do so. You aren’t supposed to deplete your entire energy loving somebody. Giving and receiving love in itself should energize you. The person you’re loving should love you enough not to allow you to do that. And they won’t allow you to do it. People who love themselves for real can recognize love in a number of forms. And they can recognize when and if they aren’t pulling their load and they want to pull their load. People who love themselves want to pull their load because that means they are living up to their own expectations of themselves and how they want to treat important people in their lives.

Maturity. Self love. Wisdom. Discernment. I want all of these. I continue to pray that the man I’m supposed to be with, God give me the vision to see him clearly and not get bogged down in the noise. I want to hear God in my choices. This is no exception.

 

 

 

 

Stop Hiding

So there has been a recurring theme that’s been popping up lately.

I came to an epiphany while talking to a good ex. He was wishing me a belated happy birthday and we started talking about a lot of random things. And he said to me some very positive things about me to me.

I asked him if I had changed and to him, he said not one bit, but he was very worried when I was going through my rough patch. He told me he didn’t like it when I would be down on myself because I could do anything.

He said it so simply and with so much love and admiration it made me miss our relationship so much. And it reminded me that whoever I choose needs to shower me with that kind of support. It didn’t feel syrupy at all, because as soon as he said something sweet, he said something absurd and silly as he often does to break the moment. And I enjoy that about him.

I disclosed to my good ex, that for the last several years I had been hiding in a sense.

After what I thought was a failure at a newspaper I worked at, I went to another job for security and got satisfied with consistent raises and well-deserved promotions. When I fell in love, and was preparing to get married, I saw my impending move as a way out to something else; a convenient excuse for a fresh start that I was all too ready for. At that time my comfy job was making me miserable with a tyrant of a co-worker trying to ruin my life.

And finally, the feeling that the last time I had to choose between career and love, I chose a career. So to show I was all in, I went all in and chose the man. But, that still didn’t work out, I said laughing. I was existing and hiding after the split, just trying to survive. I was too unhappy to think about purpose, I used all of my energy to simply get out of bed and make it to work.

To that, the good ex said, no way. And that I was awesome for holding it down everyday and paying my bills and staying employed which a lot of people in our industry were having a very tough time doing. I was glad we were texting because I was blushing.

I told him about grad school and how it scared me a bit, but how in some ways, I had no other choice. It was time for me to take control and live up to my best self. And I can’t keep doing that being satisfied where I am.

Which brings me to work and a certain project my big boss personally selected me for.

I thought I could hide.

But for some reason, my big boss chose me. So, I was given a task and I did it, I represented. I was prepared, confident and cool. After a conference call today when I asked her a few questions about the direction of the project and preparation for a larger presentation. She basically said aside from her I was one of the best people on the team. And this was in an area I knew nothing about and had to study in the span of a week. But I brought my ideas. And people were receptive and enthusiastic. It made me feel good. She also basically told me to take the ball and run with it and I will be a presenter in a major out-of-town meeting.

Whether I liked it or not, I could not hide.

God gave me a whole lot of time to sit on the sidelines and occasionally step forward at work with moments of brilliance and leadership even when I didn’t want to, or when I just wanted to lay low. He gave me time to rest and heal and deal with my own confidence issues and insecurities.

But I’m noticing more and more, God presenting certain opportunities that say, it’s time for you to shine. Do the work, don’t fear, if I’m telling you to go and you do it, you will not fail. You will have favor.

So I started being thankful for this season, even if it means if I do something impressive today, folks are looking at me to do something even more impressive tomorrow. That’s a good thing and like my ex said, its beyond high time to start seriously believing in myself the way I used to.

When I was busy questioning why my big boss chose me to do something way different from what I do everyday, I had to stop and say why not me?

Take this challenge and impress the heck out of everyone in the room. You belong at the table. You can lead. And with the full endorsement of the big boss, I am very much empowered to do so.

Then it made me think about the bigger picture and how God gives us tasks of varying degree of difficulty to prepare us for greater things and higher things. So I started thinking about what I’m studying and the kinds of things I want to do, like be a guest on Melissa Harris Perry or be a thought leader in public health or in public health communications, and what’s going on right now with work is practice.

God is letting me practice on a smaller scale so I’ll be ready to work at the CDC or NIH or even the White House. All things are possible.

But I can’t accomplish any of those things if I’m hiding. Or if I’m doubting myself. He sent me a bunch of signs in unexpected places that I cannot ignore.

So join me and come out of hiding. If you have a gift and a skill and a sincere desire to do something, then come out of hiding, put aside your fear and do it, even if it feels like it’s on a small-scale. When you are honest, when you do things from the heart and you are trying your best, the right people notice and you find yourself rising. When you show gratitude to people who give you chances, you get more chances. When you give other people chances, you get bigger chances. You notice you aren’t where you were a few years ago and you are in places you’d never thought you’d be.

Don’t hide anymore.

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