Category Archives: Love

Oh, no you DI-N’T…!

In a recent intercultural development and training workshop, I learned about the concept of “Oops, Ouch, and Educate”.  I don’t know who came up with it, or if that’s even the exact title, but the spirit of it is this: if someone says or does something that is offensive to you (“Oops!”), you tell them.  It might sting or being uncomfortable (“Ouch!”), but then you educate them on why it was offensive AND share with them what might be a better way to be in communication with you going forward.  So in the spirit of that, I’m writing this post to offer support and encouragement to a very special group of people that I’ve encountered throughout my life.  If you see yourself or someone you know in these words, feel free to ‘fess up and/or share!  No judgment past admission…we are ALL works in progress…!

 

As much as I can appreciate the attempt to “relate”…it baffles me when a non-black person automatically assumes that I speak “homegirl”…then commences with the “mmmhmm”s, “girlfriend”s, soul food/music references, neck rolling, lip twisting, or (THE WORST) COMPLETELY UNRELATED references to their mixed children or black [WHATEVER; i.e., boy/girlfriend, spouse, best friend, college roommate, grocer…you get the point].   While I’m glad to know that you are “down for the cause”…you’re going about it ALL WRONG, and further widening our gap of communication.  Not to mention, really annoying the sh*t outta me.  Because NOW I’m in my head, trying to figure out what the hell in our interaction (besides my skin color) made you break out into this alter ego that was non-existent in your communications with other people groups.  And I’m also wondering if you think you’re somehow mirroring me…which is the subject of an altogether different rant.  But for now, I want to encourage people of color the world over (and “white” IS a color…for those who seem to have missed that memo; so YES, this is for you too…ESPECIALLY, actually): the best way for you to relate to ME, is to let me see YOU…the REAL you, not the “my friend’s grandma’s fried chicken” you.  Nkay, pumpkin? K. Thaaaaanks.


Back to the Future: A Letter to the Past

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It’s so interesting how the universe responds to us. I’ve recently found myself saying on a number of occasions that I wish I could “go back and give [a younger version of myself] a hug’. I say it whenever I remember behaviors that were mindlessly prominent, stemming from a number of perceived deficiencies or flaws…efforts to get others to notice or “see” me and perceive or (even worse) ascribe my value. Then I stumbled across a challenge to– no… I was presented with an opportunity to do a writing assignment about advice I would give to my younger self. Serendipity in play, for sure. Well, actually the time frame that I was referring to was only about 4 years ago, but what follows is a letter to myself at around age 10, which is when things really were still in the middle of heavy twists and turns that were shaping the way I saw myself and the world…

Hello, Beautiful!

You are an amazing and strong young lady! You have come through some really hard things already, and you’re still smiling…that is a beautiful thing! I know at this point you are having a hard time understanding that people who really love you do not hurt you, but it’s true. The truth is those who hurt you did not love you at all, and only told you lies to get you to think they did…so they could have the chance to do harmful things to you. This is NOT LOVE, SWEETHEART. Love is not selfish and doesn’t willfully hurt or mistreat others. This is something that is REALLY important for you to learn, so that you know how to recognize the difference between when someone genuinely cares for you, and when someone is trying to trick you so they can be selfish with you. It’s also important for you to realize this so that you don’t grow up believing that it’s okay to do or say harmful things to people you say you love…because that’s not okay, either.

Love is a wonderful and miraculous thing, and I know you feel it strongly when it happens. You feel this way with your dad’s mom and your mom’s dad the most. They REALLY love you! They show you this by sharing healthy embraces and kisses with you… You know how when you’re in their arms or near them, you feel safe? Like nothing and no one can hurt you? That’s how true love is supposed to feel. You know how when you’re with them, they speak kindly to you…even when they’re angry, upset, or disappointed? That’s called respect. It is okay to be upset with someone, but you can still let them know how you feel without yelling or saying mean things to hurt them…even though you may want to do that. It won’t always feel natural, but as you grow older, you’ll learn that one of the most important things you can have is good relationships. And learning how to speak respectfully to everyone you encounter is a very big part of making sure you hold on to those good relationships.

Speaking of relationships… You are a sweet, kind and attractive young lady who has been exposed to relationships that you should have been introduced to only several years from now, when you are old enough to better understand what they mean. So, first, let me tell you that is not your fault. Second, although many who love you and will eventually learn of what happened will be upset and try to help you direct blame for what happened, that hear me when I share with you that that will not change who or where you are today…but beginning to practice blame and acting like a victim CAN affect or even change your future. You are a powerful young lady, who has the ability to do and become anything you can imagine…and you have an amazing imagination! It is very important that you remember the awesome power that you have within you to create and to choose. And to choose to create. Everything that makes you feel good about that gorgeous chocolate skin that God dipped you in, and those thick thighs that protect your sacred space, and that ivory smile that lights up your face…find ways to do more of those things, which help you celebrate the glorious daughter of Love that you are. (And although your hair is still being relaxed now, you’ll eventually learn that even those unruly kinks and coils that sprout from your scalp are to be celebrated and CAN be naturally tended to and honored.) Do not be ashamed of the wonderfully unique creation that YOU are! The more YOU know this, the more intentional your life will be. You don’t have to go through life apologizing for other people being uncomfortable with who you are in your natural state…you are not the reason for their discomfort – THEY have not learned the truth about themselves, and so they feel uncomfortable seeing you walk so freely in yours.

I tell you all this because it will give you something to hold onto when the world feels mean and cold. Because there WILL be days when things will hurt. People you love very much and who you thought would be with you forever will die and leave your life. So it is very important that when you get to share time with people you love that you make each time very special. If you want to hug them, hug them. If you want to tell them you love them, say it. These are special times that you can never get back.

Learn who your brothers and sisters are…on the inside. Pay attention to what makes them smile, and what makes them sad. Pay attention to how you feel when they do certain things – whether good or bad. And it’s okay to tell them, because this helps them get to know who you are on the inside. Remember me telling you about relationships? Your relationships with them can be among the most special relationships that you have. And when you grow up and all live apart from each other, you’ll still have your relationships to keep you close.

From where I sit now, we’ve been through a lot, babygirl. So you will have plenty of opportunities to share love and speak respectfully, with others and with yourself. I know that sounds weird, but as you get older you’ll understand. You’ll experience a few more very disappointing and hurtful people even before getting out of grade school and on to high school…as well as throughout the rest of your life, but remember who YOU are. Be proud of who you are becoming. Love yourself. Other angels will show up along with way to help you safely arrive to where we are now.

Who knows…depending on how much of this you remember and hold on to, “where we are now” could look much different the next time around. 😉

You are loved deeply,

40-year-old You (and no, that’s actually not “old”)


What’s Your Address?

Live the life you LOVE

What’s keeping you where you are? Whether it be your home, your school, your job/business/career, your marriage, or your religion/church…examine and be conscious of the power of the glue that binds you to it. Love is far more powerful than fear. If you are there because you are afraid that it’ll be a mistake if you leave, that your soul will be tormented, what others will think of you or your decision, or even that nothing better exists for you and separating would make life hell for you…it is already on the verge of ending in calamity and no amount of “trying” will make it work. If you are there because your heart is content and you light up and are filled with joy and gratitude at the thought of being there, and wondering how in the world to create more things like it in your life…more is already on the way and any challenges will only increase the strength of your original “yes” to it.

In this moment of reflection and examination, make note of where your fears cause anxiety versus where your love abides. Once fear is dismissed from its imagined duty of protecting you from harm, if love grows there instead you have saved something precious from unnecessary ruin. If, however, you find that when you release fear, love leads you on another path, graciously release that situation and allow love to manifest and fortify your true heart’s desire. Fear and love cannot occupy the same space. Know the addresses of each and live accordingly.


All Things New

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New things always seem to infuse us with the hope of possibility. Ideals of all that we can achieve, areas we can make headway in, opportunities that not only can we seize but actually create, and so on. Everything from a new toy as kids, a new notebook as a writer, a new sketchpad as an artist, a new baby as a parent, a new spouse as a lover, a new friend as a companion, a new business venture as an entrepreneur, or a new year as a human being.

But oftentimes, somewhere along the way, the work of maintaining or “doing right by” these areas gets sidetracked by things that impersonate scenarios of dire importance. Things like over-demanding bosses/jobs, obligations we half-heartedly agreed to but now can’t go back on our word, co-dependent friends/family who are always in crisis, etc. But if we look at things honestly, these things would go on just fine if we removed ourselves from the picture. And with that as the case, and the world not falling apart, it stands to reason that the framework from which we operate should be LESS on what we “have” to do to keep the proverbial ball from dropping, and MORE on what we “desire” to do to keep our passions active and infuse life into the world we want to experience.

What reflections do we want to see? What environments, people, and experiences will best express what we know to be true of ourselves? How can we authentically show up and manifest the joy, peace, and love that we are? Every day is a perfect day to start afresh and view life from the Creator’s perspective, rather than attempting to keep up with illusions we’ve unconsciously bought into because of how damned persistent they are. So, from where you sit right now, take inventory of how you feel. Are you relaxed? Worried? Fearful? Hopeful? Horny? (Hey, let’s be real…) Expectant? Angry? Happy? Is your body comfortable? Is the air around you light or aromatic? What sounds do you hear? Birds chirping? Kids laughing? Water dripping? Cars driving by? Can you feel your breaths coming in and going out? What about your chest rising and falling with each inhale/exhale? Do you feel open to receiving? Or are you closed and protective? Just BE here in this moment. Not rushing or hurried. Not overthinking, judging, or “trying” to make it be anything in particular…just observing.

This moment was created for you…BY YOU. Rest in it. And in this space, however you’ve colored it, you can begin creating the next. Our lives are created moment by moment… What will your next creation be? Follow your bliss, and create intentionally.

Happy New Year, all.


CLASSIFIED

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This is going to sound cliché (by the way, I’ve come to realize that some sayings have come to be what they are because they resonate for a lot of folks), but… I’m looking for someone. No, not the dashing 6-foot-something knight with piercing eyes and a blindingly gorgeous smile in a linen suit strolling toward me on a sandy beach…although I would not turn such a one away…BUT I’m not on a sandy beach, so we’d miss each other anyway.

Nay, I’m looking for someone who is calm and strong, certain yet flexible, resourceful and gracious, kind, caring, gentle, loving, forbearing, peaceable, impeccable, hopeful, and effective. Someone who remains peaceful in the most turbulent of times, and maintains not a “front” of calm but a genuine certainty that everything is alright…regardless of outcome. Someone who is magical in a crowd, but also divine in solitude…able to light up when others are present, or warmly flicker as a quiet flame and be perfectly content in either setting. Being fully present in whatever moment presents itself, or possessing strong knowledge of how to reclaim presence if ever it’s stolen by temporary chaos.

It seems like a tall order, but as the eternal optimist I am ever believing that it’s possible. Will these traits all show up at once? Eh…dunno. But it’s highly possible for them to all live and abide in the same being. And the place I’m looking? The mirror. Now I don’t know if all of these things are characteristics that rest at my core, because I’ve been so busy chasing life and things. Or if they’re yet other things that still need to be sharpened and polished. All I know is I’m exhausted. I am. I just “Am”. And I’d like to think that in “Am”ness I have nothing but the life of God (all of which these resonate as such, with me) I used to know to rely on…which is what I want to get back to.

I don’t aspire to titles. I don’t aspire to be seen or heard. I don’t even aspire to be the best at my job, or in my field of work…or even in my DESIRED field of work. And quite honestly that’s a scary place to be in for me right now…I mean, seriously. The bills don’t pay themselves. But I simply aspire to be successful at being the best ME I can be. I aspire to INspire my own life and waking. I aspire to let the child in my care know that he’s loved and fully capable of doing anything his heart desires. I aspire to show him how beautiful life can be every day and that our only limitations are those we put on ourselves. I aspire to demonstrate what bravery looks like. What honor and integrity look like. I aspire to think and live outside of the box and color outside the lines because that’s where the bigness of God is. I desire to know the depth of myself…but I’ve looked and searched and worked everywhere except within.

I’d LOVE to be able to “just live”, without the pressures of HAVING to work to provide for our basic necessities. Although I know me, and it wouldn’t be long before I’d find myself working on a passion, or trying to provide a solution for something or creating something…but THAT’s the space out of which I want to work. Because it’s coming from a pure place. From an unobstructed place.

So the question becomes how do I begin to achieve that now? From where I am now? How do I begin to sculpt my life’s happenings, my thoughts, my energy, etc. to begin to shift things to occupy more appropriate places and priorities without jeopardizing our current standard of life? I believe I’m doing some of it now, just by calling conscious attention to it. I believe the rest of the answers will come… And that’s not to sound hokey, but I just don’t have answers ready. When I started it out by saying I’m looking for answers…I really am. But I also know that the questions are already the answers in seed form, just waiting to bloom under the right set of circumstances.

Time for a shift…


Truth Hurts: Trayvon Martin Commentary

Trayvon Martin Hoodie

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very sensitive and passionate person.  But even without that knowledge, it should not be a surprise that my heart is deeply grieving for the outcome of the Zimmerman case.

Unlike many in our country, I wasn’t glued to my t.v. screen nor was I following various feeds online as the case was unfolding.  I don’t watch or follow the news like that…that kind of energy is just too much for me to ingest on a regular basis.  But knowing what I DO know about the situation, I am hurt beyond adequate words about what the Zimmerman verdict implies about the [lack of] sanctity of African-American life in our country.  But, sadly, I’m not shocked.

There has been much talk these days about race and just how “real” racism and/or racial disparity is and continues to persist.  And many of our Caucasian counterparts are challenged by the sudden “in-your-face-ness” of our frustration, disappointment, and even anger in response to the outcome.  And while I’m only going to say this for context (and probably piss off some in the process), I believe that the African-American community now understands the disgust that rose up when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down.  Different situation, but similar context…racial tensions at their height, very emotionally charged cases, and seemingly clear-cut would-be outcomes.  But both were turned on their ears, in shocking upsets.

And while the Zimmerman trial wasn’t as dynamic a circus as the Simpson trial, it is important to note that both outcomes were made possible by the way our justice system is set up…each defendant has a right to a trial by a jury OF HIS/HER PEERS – NOT the peers of the victim(s).  Because in both cases, had the jury consisted of the peers of the deceased, both cases would have produced quite different outcomes.

It’s also important to note that in both cases, it was disgusting and absolutely ridiculous the lengths that the defense went to in order to try to smear the name and character of the deceased in order to “fight” for their client.  And while I’d like to tread very lightly here, I’m going to throw in the possibility that the guilt of the defense attorney of the 1st case led to his ultimate undoing.  I can only imagine how the same (guilt) might carry out for the defense in the 2nd case eventually.  I don’t wish it, but karma is a mother bitch…especially when you KNOW better.  A paycheck or “job” to do doesn’t negate the power of the seed being sown.

Nevertheless, my heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Trayvon Martin, and I can only imagine how disheartened they must feel.  First, they lost their son to a senseless slaying, and THEN to pour salt into that wound OUR justice system pretty much called it a truce…AFTER dragging Trayvon’s name and character through the mud.  It really is shameful.

It’s shameful that our justice system is SO marred that this type of major public travesty can happen at least TWICE without there being SOME kind of revision to such racially tense cases.  I’m not a politician, and have no desire to be one.  Nor am I an attorney or legislator, and what I’m about to suggest may be as “kindergarten” as it comes…  But the issue of race ABSOLUTELY needs to be WRITTEN INTO the way these cases are handled.  It’s not as simple as trying one man for the murder of another…because the man who was killed, in cases such as this, wasn’t even viewed as a man – he was essentially hunted prey.  And I’m not just talking in the case where the deceased is a black man…it works the other way as well.  Once the elements of the case are introduced and the subject of race is broached, everything relating to the case needs to be dealt with through that context as it is now highly probable as a motive.  Again, maybe I’m looking at it too simply.  But all the “technicalities” have allowed MANY a guilty party to walk, and MANY MORE innocent ones to pay for the crimes of those walking free.

Personally, I’m just exhausted of it all.  I really do understand Rodney King’s infamous “can’t we all just get along?” question.  And unfortunately, there is a simple answer immediately available: NO.  As long as different cultures exist, and there are those who come from and are taught (aka “programmed”) by descendants of ignorance, this kind of madness will continue.  We’ll never all “just get along”.  That’s not being pessimistic…that’s acknowledging fact.

Do you think George Zimmerman would have given Trayvon Martin so much as a second glance had he been regularly exposed to NEUTRAL and UNBIASED experiences with African-Americans growing up?  Do you think it would have entered his mind to shoot and kill that young man had he been taught to have a healthy respect for the urban culture that dressed Trayvon…even if it wasn’t his own personal preference?  Lemme TRULY take it back to kindergarten and ask this…  Do you think he would have been following Trayvon had he learned the simple courtesy of personal space???  (Following a stranger…no, PURSUING a stranger…is a DEFINITE violation of personal space.)  He certainly wouldn’t have gotten to the point of murdering that young man had he learned about the sanctity of life and valuing others who don’t look, act, or live like him.  There’s much more to say here, but you get my point, I hope.

It used to be that African-Americans moved from certain undesirable conditions to try to escape the typical dramas of living in such conditions – namely violent acts.  But this case demonstrates that moving to a “better” community can be just as (if not MORE) dangerous as (than) staying put because if our sons don’t look like they “belong” there and we don’t dress ’em up to “look the part” it’s pretty much okay to gun them down because some ignorant ass is playing neighborhood watch vigilante.  Shame on Trayvon’s parents for not teaching him the “dangers” of BEING a young black man.  Are you SERIOUS???

But as disgusting and frustrating as this all is, we shouldn’t let it end in disgust and frustration…because it only breeds more of the same.  And no, we’re not going to change the world, our county, or even our home overnight.  But we can start.  We can start with truly sitting with whatever we’re feeling surrounding the way things existing as they do right now.  Feeling all of what we feel…then allowing it to pass, so we can move into productive expression and forward movement.  BE pissed off.  BE hurt.  BE angry.  BUT don’t stay there.  Those things are toxic if we let them stay long enough…and they poison our OWN system.  The saying “[harboring negative emotions] is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die” is always good to internalize and is a great reminder.

So how do we move forward?  I think it’s important to call a spade a spade, and work within the framework of whatever exists AS it exists today…WHILE working toward what truly IS possible.  And ALL things are possible.  It is TOTALLY possible for us all to live in harmony and peace with one another, in a perfect world.  But, as we all know, our world is not perfect…nor will it ever be.  Again, not being pessimistic…just stating fact.  But, just as our President mentioned in his response to the Zimmerman trial, we can absolutely work toward a “MORE” perfect world…and it starts right here within our own borders.

Working toward a more perfect world means teaching respect, encouraging dialogue, providing a safe space to get understanding, and not taking ourselves so damned seriously.  NONE of us have ALL of the answers.  And we all NEED each other.  Not to sound like an after-school special or corny “world” song, but it’s true.  And we can’t teach it to the world – not even within our borders – if we don’t first teach it at home.

Dr. King’s dream may be in a choke hold right now…but it still lives.  I would even go so far as to say it’s no longer his dream – it should be ours.  We’re still here.  We have been given the divine gift of life, just as those who transitioned before us and who once actively walked and breathed and had the power to “do” in this realm.  We can still make change happen.  We can still impact the generations with whom we’ve been entrusted.  I’ll take it a step further, and say that we shouldn’t give up on ourselves and our own generations (whatever age we are) because life itself is evidence that change is possible…we can always choose a new direction, even if our old habit has been undesirable.  When we know better, we can do better.

When we lose a loved one, we often hear “don’t let their death have been in vain”.  And while that’s a noble idea, unless their death directly and immediately causes a possible change event, those quite honestly are just words said to try to draw a silver lining around a painful situation.  The more accurate encouragement is that we not let our own LIVES be in vain.

I have one friend who was so moved that she started a community page on Facebook that JUST honors and celebrates sons. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Have-a-Son) Others will begin awareness and/or empowerment campaigns within their own communities, or choose to get involved in mentoring programs that already exist.

What will YOU do to begin to be and create the change you want to see in the world…?  Because unless this IS your perfect world, “nothing” is not a viable option.


Pain Therapy

tears10I used to feel like it was my “duty” to make a loved one feel better when they were going through tough times.  Like it was my personal responsibility to squeeze a smile out of them, or let them know that it was all “going to be okay”.  What I’ve come to realize is that while it is absolutely natural to want to ease the pain of a loved one who may be suffering in some way, sometimes the most important value comes in just (as corny as it sounds) being there.

The gray area is in our independent interpretations of what “being there” actually means.  For many of us (and I was included in this number), it means trying to go to battle for our loved one.  If we deem that they are having a temporary setback, and it has weakened their ability to maintain the person WE know them to be, we want to do whatever we can to try to make THAT person “come back”.  And on a very surface level, it’s sweet.  You know, to want to help a person keep from bottoming out and feeling and experiencing what actually usually are very real emotions, thoughts, and realizations about a situation with which they’re faced.

But if we REALLY think about it, it’s kinda selfish.  Of course, that’s not usually our intention though.  But it’s really wanting to numb or relieve their pain so WE can feel better, knowing that they’re okay…or at least pretending to be.  Why?  Because when a loved one is hurting, so are we.  When they’re in pain, it hurts us.  When they’re otherwise wounded, it pierces our hearts and makes us uncomfortable.  It reminds us of how little control we have and how much our peace of mind is tied to what’s going on with other people – especially those with whom we share strong connections.

We listen…to a point.  Then starts the “encouragement” talk.  We hear the pain…for a minute.  Then we try to find a way to turn around the conversation and make it lighter and to distract them from the hurt, the disappointment, disillusionment, or whatever is the ailment of the moment.  It is one of the greatest challenges of our humanity to share carrying another’s burden of pain.  It tests our own fortitude because it’s not even OUR issue!  But because we’ve chosen to exchange intimate energy with them, we get to experience what they go through…if they trust us enough to let us in during such a time.

Of course not all of our efforts to provide relief to our vulnerable counterparts stem from selfish motives, but the purpose of this post is to spark reflection the next time a loved one trusts you with such a tender moment of opportunity.  Because the opportunity in that moment may not be to tell them everything’s going to be okay.  Sometimes that only exacerbates matters and deepens a sense of alone-ness and misunderstanding.

The real opportunity in that moment is to be a listening ear, a loving bosom, and/or a gentle and non-judging caregiver.  Not every observation of a “crack in the armor”, if you will, is a cry for help or for us to fly in and try to save the day.  Oftentimes, we save the day just by being there to honor them in their moment of truth.  Now, don’t get me wrong, some folks need a swift kick in the ass and some tough love, or to be dragged out of a drunken stupor of self-pity.  And is there value in hearing comforting words of wisdom or concern in moments of crisis?  Aaaaabsolutely!  But many more times, we’re unable to distinguish or make an accurate assessment because we’re blinded by our own discomfort and the need for things to be “normal” so WE can be okay.

So the next time you find yourself being privy to someone’s nakedness, in whatever way it happens, challenge yourself to “do” absolutely nothing except let them feel that you have brought all of yourself (or at least as much as you can honestly offer) to the moment and that you’re willing to ride it out with them.  And truthfully, that speaks more volumes than any encouraging words you could have mustered up anyway.