Tag Archives: authentic

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”)

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Mirror, Mirror…

I’ve had the opportunity to re-read some of my blogs lately, and every now and then I see an ugly monster rear its head.  And I want to address it.  It’s not envy or jealousy, but rather is hypocrisy.   I’ve noticed that in recent years I’ve become a version of the very thing that bugs the hell outta me…judgmental, critical, and self-righteous.  I’m not proud of it, but I am owning it as true.  Otherwise, there’s no other way to begin to change it, because there’s no acknowledgement that a problem exists.  Isn’t that the first step to recovery?  Well, I’m diving in.

Being raised in differing denominations of Christianity, and attending a Christian university, I had some very fundamental religious concepts instilled into me.  Things like original sin, the necessity and grace of salvation, resurrection, hell, holiness, purity, trust in a just God, God’s sovereignty, the smallness of man, and so on.  (I’m not a theologian, and never claimed to be one…so if any of these things aren’t technically “Fundamental”, forgive me.  When I say “fundamental”, I’m referring only to the things that were basically drilled home on a regular basis…not official dogma.)

My early years were lived in a more liberal type of religious environment, but the fundamentals were the fundamentals…so they were basically the same.  But beginning with my sophomore year in high school, I changed homes and began to attend a more “charismatic” church.  Here, the fundamentals were LIFE.  Not only were they taught, but they were lived with a vehemence that I’d never experienced or encountered before – complete with tracts, door-to-door witnessing, altar calls, lock-ins, and the like.  Straight up “kingdom business”!

In my early years, I attended church regularly because it’s all I knew.  It was what my family did.  But the lifestyle wasn’t as restricted and constricting as it became when I changed homes and churches.  Funny thing is that my home wasn’t restrictive (quite the contrary…it was more freedom than I’d ever known up to that point), but there was a religious regimen in place that left no room for anything other than the teachings being presented.  It wasn’t mandatory clothing and no make-up, but the culture was that of strict compliance to the Bible – God’s holy word.  Anything to the contrary was cause for not only concern, but depending on the infraction, prayer, fasting, laying on of hands, and possible pastoral counseling.

In this environment, I went from a sometime-y churchgoer to the Lord’s cheerleader.  I learned what it looked like to actually “live” what I’d been taught in the other church environment…and I was faithful.  I felt a strong sense of obligation to the tenets that my spiritual understanding had been built upon to that point.  But I also felt a strong sense of guilt whenever I wasn’t as excited about the Lord’s work as it seemed I should have been.  It was in this environment that I learned how to judge.

I saw how well other people were treated when they were serving God and doing it “right”.  I saw how “lost and lonely” other people looked and were treated when they tried to master being faithful to God, but somehow fell short.  I learned how to do the right things, and stay on the right side of righteousness so that I would be treated well.  And I also judged myself, based on all that I saw, because I saw others being judged…and I didn’t want that stigma.

I loved the aspects of restoration, reconciliation, and grace but was horrified by the idea that the God I served could be so mean and cruel as to cause (or graciously “allow”) bad things to happen to people if they weren’t holy enough.  Mortified by the idea that not only would He allow bad things to happen to them here, but if some freak accident caused them to die while they were thinking or doing something unholy, they would burn in hell for all of the rest of eternity.  No chance of parole, and no pardons…no exceptions.

That being the case, after high school, I wanted to make sure that I stayed “in grace”…so I continued on to a Christian university.  Here, I saw and heard of all MANNER of hellbound activity!  Everything from cursing, drinking, premarital sex, listening to secular music, partying with heathens…the whole nine.  My Christ cheerleading pom-poms were almost worn out by the end of freshman year…and I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked for condemning my roommate for ROCKING to Michael Jackson (she was in LOVE with him).  It was a lost cause and I felt myself “backsliding” because I started to actually “like” Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love”, thanks to the hellion of a dorm beautician who had her music on blast mode.  Yeah, I was falling and falling fast.

That way of living seems so far removed from me today, as I chill my sweet moscato, listen to the soothing “secular” jazz sounds of George Benson, enjoy a schedule that’s not dictated by spiritual emphasis weeks, visit different bars and do karaoke without feeling “convicted” or compelled to tell them about Jesus, and acquaint myself with the sound of my own voice rather than waiting to hear if what I want to do is “normal” and okay with the churchgoing public.

But these days I find myself plagued by a different version of the same judgmental virus.  Only it’s directed at those who now live the life that I once knew and followed oh-so-intimately.  It’s almost like a lashing out and poking fun at them…how small of me!

Here’s what I know…  Although I do not subscribe to the same ways of conducting my life, it’s not my place to judge them for how they conduct theirs.  HOWEVER, with my emancipation has come a yet untrained tongue and face (it seems to have lost its ability to bullshit anymore) which can be quite sharp in asking a “soldier for Christ” to back up off me should they push me to that point…I’m working on reclaiming my grace.  Nevertheless, I’m saying that I realize that there is a way to be free of what is no longer authentic for me without antagonizing those with which I once closely identified.

Because the truth of the matter is that judgment is judgment…regardless of where it’s aimed.  And I neither desire nor have the right to be anyone’s judge.  It’s just that I sometimes feel the need to “set the record straight” and go out of my way to prove that something is a certain way…when it’s absolutely unnecessary.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.  No need to prove anything, or set anything or anyone straight.

It’s pretty much a fight or flight type of response to what I perceive to be a potential threat.  But threat to what, is the question.  Threat to my personhood?  Threat to my liberty?  Threat to my future?  Threat to my own definition of who I am?  None of these things can be stripped of me…I’d have to surrender them.  So where does the fear come from?  What am I really afraid of?

Marianne Williamson’s “Return to Love” suggests that maybe I’m afraid of myself.  My own brilliant, incredible, amazing, resilient self.  And you know what?  I’m inclined to agree.  Because I’ve compared myself to so many others over the course of my life and journey, and felt as though I didn’t shine like them in some way or another.  But what I’ve come to realize is THAT’S THE POINT!!!  Living in other people’s shadows and under their umbrellas of what’s possible or acceptable is overwhelmingly exhausting!  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever grow into fullness and pure and genuine fulfillment coloring myself by someone ELSE’s numbers.

Judgment isn’t me.  That was someone else.  So while I know I’ll continue to speak about my various experiences and how I believe many of them made me shrink into a way-too-small version of myself, my goal is to learn to do so without venom and without contempt.  Beauty, grace, dignity, authenticity, humility, and truth is who I am…and how I want to deliver.  So when I look in to mirror today, I won’t see yet another “version” of me…but simply Dionne.

Does this mean that everything will be diplomatic, “safe”, and virtually pain-free?  Not at all.  There’s no way to satisfy or protect everyone.  But the point is my AIM should not be anyone or any group of people.  When I share, I want all of me to be free and have a place wherever I am.  But in this space of genuineness, I no longer have to fear that I won’t fit and therefore force myself into yet another space that doesn’t honor my truth.

Learning how to balance all of this is such an interesting journey, but one that I’m so glad to finally be on.


Occupy Your Space

In general, all people have insecurities.  We all have things that we wish we could do better, do more of, be recognized for, etc.  And there’s always going to be someone who looks more attractive, does a better job, wins more people, has more of a competitive edge, or is more magnetic than we think we are.  That’s just life. But what I’ve found is that when we fully occupy our OWN space, meaning that we do our best in all that WE are able to do, there is no room for insecurity.  Because in this space, I’ve done all that I can do.  I’ve blessed who I’m supposed to bless… I’ve smiled at who I’m supposed to smile at…  I’ve devoted my time and attention to the things I’ve committed to…  I’ve tended to my body in a manner that leaves nothing lacking…  I’ve made sure that those I love and care about know the depth of my love and appreciation for them…  I’ve committed myself to becoming the best “ME” that I can be, so that no one else can step in and assume (or CONsume) the space that is supposed to be designated for me.  And having done all of these things, I now…stand.

Sure it sounds like a LOT OF SHIT TO DO!!!!  I mean, who really does all of that???  Who leaves NOTHING “undone”??  Well, let me ask you this:  In a day, how many tasks do you reckon you’re able to accomplish on a regular basis?  20?  30?  100?  All things considered, most people complete at LEAST 1000 tasks in a day…  When I say “all things considered”, I mean it… 1) Get out of bed, 2) stretch, 3) walk across the room, 4) go to the bathroom, 5) wash your hands (and if you don’t, let me just tell you….THAT’S JUST NASTY AS HELL; keep your bodily fluids to yourself, please), 6) brush your teeth, 7) open the blinds….need I go on?  So in the “laundry list” of things I mentioned before, there weren’t that many things listed…Is it reasonable to say that you could do that and MUCH MORE, if you put your attention to it?  Absolutely.

What brought about this blog?  I’d been feeling somewhat “inadequate” in my own mind.  Regardless of the things I do and all those I come in contact with on a regular basis, because some basic goals and aspirations hadn’t been met, I began to question what I was “missing”.  What didn’t I have that the next person had?  What made this other person so much more successful in this particular area?  How was I continuously overlooked or seemingly un(der)developed in these things?  The answer:  I wasn’t fully occupying my space.

We were all born with various gifts, talents, abilities, passions, capacities, etc.  But most of us don’t always bring all that we are to the table.  Why?  Well, I won’t dare speak for you, but for me I didn’t feel worthy to own up to my TRUE self…the self that had such a presence that was the same kind of “beautiful” that I could so appreciate when I saw that same energy on someone else.  [I could definitely relate to the prose by Marriane Williamson that reveals that our deepest fear is not anything outside of us, but rather our own best self!] And in fact, I was so busy admiring (and in some cases being jealous or envious of) someone else’s “flair” that I didn’t appreciate or invest time and energy into developing the things that I do extraordinarily.  I was so busy wishing I could have the finances of the next person, that I missed pouring myself fully into the opportunities that had been given to me, to better my own financial future.  Too much energy and self-loathing wishing my body looked like someone else’s that I didn’t express love and kindness to myself and make sure that I was putting my own “best” forward.  I could paint the details of this picture forever, but I think you get the point.

The point is to encourage you to pay attention to the space you were meant to occupy, and DO IT!!  No one else can effectively and adequately stand on your stage.  Not one other person can give the love that YOU were meant to give.  No one else can write the poems, books, songs and/or screenplays that were birthed out of your unique experiences.  Of all the beautiful people in the world, no one will be beheld with the same awe and admiration as when you grace the world with the essential and authentic energy that you are and will attract just because you fell in love…with YOU.

No “embellishment” necessary…you already have and are everything you need to be.  No petty jealousy necessary…it’s impossible for him/her to “beat you” offering your unique seasoning to the flavor of Love.  And so on…

If we would but only learn the power that we represent and can demonstrate, in full essence… If we would but dare to be introduced to the greatness that permeates our very being… If ONLY we would stop being intimidated by our real selves, and stop running from the responsibility of our richness… Phew!

Take your stage.  Own your truth.  Occupy your space.