Tag Archives: relationships

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.

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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”)