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Archive for the tag “mentors”

You Don’t Have to Be a Parent to Be a Parent Figure

I saw an amazing one-woman show last night.

It was called “The Night Watcher” you’d think a title like that on the night before Halloween, it would and should be scary.

It was not.

It was heartfelt and beautiful and I nearly dropped a tear twice because the actress Charlayne Woodard was absolutely friggin amazing. To be able to hold a room spellbound for two hours (with a 15-minute intermission) is a feat. And it looked emotionally and physically exhausting. She gave her all, she performed with her whole body, her face, her eyes, her arms, legs and hands she used every part of her body, sometimes making her self small and unsure like a 14-year old trying to explain getting pregnant, to making herself a large and brooding teenage boy, or small again, like a scared 11-year-old who wants to someday meet her birthmom. She kept morphing into these characters with ease, transitioning back as the ever-listening, constantly thinking and wanting to help, yet also flawed auntie Charlayne.

She exposed herself, she told the truth when she wanted to yoke a child up, or slap her parent friends with the hard, cold truth. She talked about the missed opportunities to have a child due to her just living her life and taking advantage of moments, to splurging on her dogs. It was honest and in the honesty and in the pain and her ability to connect to it, and to make each of us think of our aunties or uncles who took time with us, or even young relatives in our own lives who need an ear, and who need support.

Critics call her a “master storyteller” and I totally agree. Time flew by as she painted vingettes about being a parent figure to children she didn’t birth herself, but whom she loved like a mom.

This show resonated with me because for those of you who follow this blog, you all know that I’m scared of being a mom, and struggling with my lack of desire to have children.

I have friends who have become moms, are becoming moms and single friends who really know they want to be moms. I have one friend who seemingly has everything and she loves children. Has a bunch of god children and has said above everything else she knows she was put on this earth to be a mother. She wants that more than anything to have a child of her own.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have a friend who tends to be gun-shy about relationships, but has said even if she has to pick a sperm donor some day, she would totally be a single mom and sees herself being a pretty darn good one. I agree. She’s one of the most responsible people I know and the most loving, even though sometimes she doesn’t believe Mr. Right is going to show up anytime soon.

But I fall in a nebulous place. When I spend time with my friend’s son, I think he’s sweet and funny and full of wonder and he can also be exhausting to keep up with. When I spend time with my nephew, as he gets older, I’m blown away with how smart he is and how intuitive he is. I can’t believe he’s going to middle school next year. I was recently looking at a picture of me meeting him for the first time. I was a junior in college and I awkwardly held him, but it felt nice he was this little mushball of love looking like my sister and my brother-in-law and I hoped he and I would have a great relationship over his lifetime.

I didn’t live right up the street, but I hoped he’d always know that I loved him and would be proud of his accomplishments big and small and that I support him and want him to always be his very best. I hoped he’d know if he needed me and I could help him, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

What I liked most about Ms. Woodard’s performance was the fact that even though people thought she and her husband would make the most wonderful parents and kept telling her about opportunities to take in various children in their circle who needed good parents like them, she would respectfully decline, but offered herself as a mentor, a friend, an auntie. And she kept all of these kids secrets, served them up with tough love, and while scared out of her mind, she remained calm and cool and listened when the parents may have been too emotional or too detached to be objective. She was unapologetic for saying she and her husband lived simply and that she loved her career as an actress and she loved being able to go and come as she pleased. Even when her “kids” came to visit for a week, she expressed she was happy to see them go (with smiles on their faces) as much as she was happy spending time with them.

In the play she shared some painful stuff, and even her parent-friends hurling some hurtful words when she would see trouble and offer her help (i.e. until you become a parent, you can’t tell me how to raise my kid). You felt the sting, because you knew she was coming from a real place of love and urgency, because in most cases she was privy to the child’s problems before the parents were.

She made me think of the women in my life who served as aunties and third grandmothers. Women who in their own ways taught me how to navigate the world and to see the world as a big place that was ready for me to go conquer it. There were aunts, cousins, babysitters, church ladies, Sunday school teachers, and folks who all had a part in nudging me along. It doesn’t matter if you are raised by two parents or just one, or none. We truly are all in this together. And even as an adult, I’ve met people who have in a sense taken me in and encouraged me and made me feel safe and I recognize that and am super thankful for it.

If you live in D.C. the show is running for a little while at the Studio Theater. I suggest you check it out and take an auntie-type person and bring tissues. http://www.studiotheatre.org/calendar/view.aspx?id=4830

It’s Already Been Decided

I’ve been wrapped up in knots about a major opportunity that I’m hoping happens for me.


The anxiety has been making me nuts.

I’ve been very careful not to give folks too many details, for fear of jinxing it. And not even jinxing, but I’ve learned there are times you need to sit still, be quiet and keep your mouth closed. You go about your business and when it’s time to reveal something, especially once you’ve attained it, instead of each and every detail of the process, the fewer questions you have to answer along the way and even after, if it doesn’t work out.

One of my favorite mentors in the world basically affirmed me yesterday in a simple statement.

“It’s already been decided.”


She is another woman of faith, who doesn’t beat you over the head with religion, perse, but with her actions, with her words of affirmation and comfort, you know God leads her life. No sign, no pamphlet, no guilt.

The history with this person is strong. When I didn’t know her very well, I stepped out on faith and told her just how close I was to failing and getting fired at a particular job early in my career.

She asked me why I didn’t come to her sooner. She didn’t see me the way the other superiors saw me. She saw talent, drive and promise. From that point on she called me a weeble (80s babies know what the weebles are. They are a family of egg-shaped people who can be dropped and will wobble around, but still stand up straight no matter what you do.). When she referred to me as such in a message yesterday, I just wanted to cry and hug her for a while. We used to do that too.

She addressed my enemies and said she would be personally responsible for me and whipping me into shape. She went to the mat for me when I was even starting to doubt myself as a reporter and writer and she helped me focus. She stabilized my confidence during one of the most difficult times in my career. She is a major influence on me. I am forever grateful to her. Words are not enough.

So, let’s get to how all of this started. She posted a video on Facebook where Oprah discusses how she got the role of Sophia for the Color Purple. She instantly had a connection to this book from the moment she read a review in the New York Times, and literally ran out of her house with a robe covering her pjs to buy it, and then basically inhale it in the same day. Then she bought more copies and gave them to anyone who’d take it.

When there was talk of a movie, she knew she had to be a part of it somehow.

She did not have experience as an actress and was scared and felt inadequate in comparison to others auditioning.

I was thinking about the opportunity before me. It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done and if I had truly known from the start what I was getting into, I would have been too scared to go for it.

Oprah said in her video, that God’s plans for us are bigger than ourselves.

I wrote this as a Facebook post like two days ago.

She said she had to surrender and let go to whatever her fate was going to be and make the decision to be happy for whomever gotten the role if she didn’t. She said she prayed and cried and sang, “I surrender all.”

And she got the call. She was Sophia and it opened the way for her to get a national television show… and we all know what happened after that.

I told my mentor that I needed to see that clip, I needed to hear those words, because it was a straight affirmation for what’s going on in my life and the changes that are coming.

She said she knew it would speak to someone, and that she too finally had the opportunity to sit still and quiet her mind because she is on bed rest for her pregnancy (im thrilled for her new addition). But the biggest thing that hit me like a ton of bricks is when she said we have inside us all we need, but we have to trust it. “Keep me posted when you get the new gig. It’s already been decided.”

“It’s already been decided.”

Some people who have faith, they live in this everyday. It’s been decided. God has things already mapped out.

Some people believe in predetermination, where our fate is decided.

My anxiety lifted.

It’s been decided.

This is the video. I hope you’ll be inspired too.


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