28May

The Ring

As you get older and as it relates to dating, your dreams and hopes change.  For those who are single or who have danced with single more than marriage or long term commitment, your list gets shorter.  You either start seeing possibility in different places or you stop seeing it at all.  You learn how to be okay with being single or you make finding someone a full time job.  It’s all a journey when you are not in a relationship especially when you think you are suppose to be in a relationship or you desire to be in a relationship.  And you have to negotiate the absence of what you want, sometimes, along with the world and those in it whose opinions you care about for longer than a second.

I had a classmate, back in college, who had her life mapped out.  She was going to graduate at 21.  She was going to go to graduate school.  She was going to get married at 27.  She was going to get a dog at 29.  And she wanted to have her first child at 30.  I could  go on with this story.  As a 19 years old, what struck me with this story is just how specific she was.  I more or less wanted some of the same things but what I wanted and the time period was not as detailed.  School and fun had preoccupied a lot of my life.  If I’m a bit more honest church and my evangelical lifestyle dominated my life as well.  I wanted a career and remotely a family because that was the picture of success but not because it was anything I wanted.

Because I lived far away from my family (i.e. meaning they couldn’t just hop in a car and come visit me), when I went home one of the first questions asked, after how was I doing, was are you dating someone.  My answer was usually no.  I hated the question because the answer was no.  My mother asked it even more often on her phone calls.  I wanted to shout I’ll let you know when it happens.  Generally when I was dating someone it did not line up with my trips home.  I remember the pressure of that question.  It was if my life was only measured by being in a relationship.  Even after a decade or more my family never let up.  My cousin even assured me it would happen.  It did but perhaps not like anyone thought it would.

Life happened.  I rolled in and out of relationships.  By the time I hit a few relationships I was happy to return to the single lifestyle.  Okay there was one or two that really had potential but I still thought companionship was overrated.  Pleasing this other person or even feeling pleased myself was not happening as much as I thought it should.  I realized that maybe I was better off single.  As an only child, I had grown more accustomed to my own heartbeat than any one else’s.  I enjoyed being with others but I loved coming home to solitude.  I loved moving to my own drum beat without any negotiations.  I loved sleeping late.  I loved to being bothered.  I loved my perpetual zen moment.  I love being free to pursue a thought, or an event or a person.  I love being single which is hard for folks to believe.

And then there was her.  After I had resigned myself to being a well adapted single person, she decided to make a play.  I don’t know when I knew or realized it but whenever I did it was too late to say no.  And then life happened again but it happened with someone.  And not that I missed companionship but I enjoyed her company.  I enjoyed sharing my crab legs with someone though she is not much of sharer.  I enjoyed having someone to process the events of my day and she loved hearing my voice though it would put her to sleep.  I enjoyed this new path that I was on.  Even though our lives intertwined very quickly around each other, I wasn’t sure about my college dream of marriage.  I have tried to put breaks on that possibility.  Lets just enjoy each other.

So over a month ago on her birthday she proposed to me against my verbalized wishes.  And I accepted.  And I put this gorgeous ring on my hand.  And not being the mushy kind of person, I had greatly underestimated the power of a ring.  After four days we needed to have it fitted.  It was hard taking it off.  It was hard letting it go.  The ring has solidified some things for me.  It’s like writing your name in wet cement.  We are interdependent on each other.  The name in the cement is permanent and real as our relationship is a solid fixture in our lives.   This ring has grounded my feet and my heart in ways I never thought imaginable.  I don’t know if this is the dream of yesterday or maybe it’s a new dream but it is a beautiful dream.

06May

Facebook Likes

Like is a very important part of our life.  No matter how cool a person acts, they want to be liked.  And no matter how much a person says they do not care, they want acceptance.  No matter how tough a person appears inside, there is a person desiring to be affirmed for something they did.  We want people to say we’ve done a good job. We want to hear good things about ourselves.  We want to be liked.  It’s universally human.

So a couple of years ago a Facebook friend, who happens to be someone I have a personal relationship with as well, told me they were going off of Facebook.  I inquired why.  They informed me that no one really noticed their post.  I asked. “how do you know this information?”  Was there some new app that told you how many people viewed your post?  They replied no but that none ever “liked” their statuses.  They said that sometimes I, the writer, hit “like” and one other person but many of their statuses went unliked.  They then compared their statuses to other people, writer included.  I do not get that many “likes” myself compared to others but I kept that information to myself.  I tried to reason that they had 40 friends compared to my over 500 friends.  I also explained, what is true for me, Facebook is a hit or miss and so I don’t see everyone’s post all the time.  I don’t have that kind of time.  This led me to the thought this person has too much time on their hand but I continued to think about this self disclosure.

I have to admit my Facebook friend’s confession put “likes” on my mind more.  I consulted with my partner at some point.  She has a like finger and she understood the Facebook friend’s feelings.  With her like finger she contributes probably 50 “likes” a day and as a result people like her (lol).  She just hits “like” to about almost anything whether she likes it or not.  If she read this she’s going to disagree but it’s true because I, the writer. said so.  She will “like” this blog post whether she likes it or not.  For her birthday she likes every person who wishes her a Happy Birthday.  She also stays up with Facebook much more regularly than I do.  She loves social media and along with her sweet tooth she has to have a healthy consumption of it daily.

For me I realize that I hit like, like I choose friends, with deliberation, thought and intentionality.  It’s not random and I am not on a mission to boost folks self-esteem, although I do admit I hit like for my Facebook friend, who confided her sadness over not getting many likes.  I try to be more mindful of the fragility of folks but I forget sporadically.  I realize that the like means so much to my Facebook friend and see it as ministry.  But I’m not on social media for ministry.  I go for winding down or avoiding an important task.  I know we all go there, for those of us that go there, for different reasons.  I’m not looking for “likes” but I’ll admit they can be nice.

My Facebook friend taught me a valuable lesson about the “like” button.  I already knew how much folk need affirmation but this person helped me realize that even in social media we can be intentionally affirming.  I’m not sure how much this has increased my usage of the “like” button but what I do know is that I see more clearly opportunities to affirm another person, that is hi-five them.  I may not be as frequent as my partner but I do recognize and sort of enter into liking the things people say on Facebook as a way of saying you really are okay and you’re doing a fantastic job.  Like after all is important to the sustainability of humans.  If you like this blog post go ahead and do it, hit the “like” button.

20Apr

Outside of Me

I listen to a lot of folks for a living.  As recent as today someone called me to help pull them in from being deep in ocean.  Listening is not even a job anymore but something I do naturally even though I am not so sure I hear self as well.  It’s so natural I even hear the girl crying as her mom brisk her pass me off to class late.   Somedays as I’m listening to others I have to work hard at hearing the lyrics in their story as separate from my own song.  Somedays it seems like all of our stories are like wet tangled hair easily meshed together.  I dance between joy and wonderment.  I find myself starting out in one emotion and dancing through a rainbow of emotions.  And so life is a prism of experiences.  It is not as clear to me anymore as I juggle many balls while walking on a tight rope where I am or what I am doing.

But there are these invitations, that sometimes find me, that invite me to step outside of me.  By stepping outside of me, I mean the me that is bombarded with to do list, errands, and obligations.  By stepping outside of me, I mean the person who has my family and friends in categories to call on different days of the weeks.  By steeping outside of me, I mean the person who balances listening with responding and being many things to many people that I care and love and knowing that some days I am not what they wanted me to be.  By stepping outside of me, I mean the person with two jobs, a blended family, family and friends, and unfulfilled personal aspirations.  By stepping outside of me, I mean the person who wants to go crazy sometimes but instead holds it all together because it’s what’s expected of people like me.  All of this is the me that I sometimes need to escape.

And so the latest of invitations, that I remember with a chuckle, is my son’s challenge to a race to the car.  Seeing as how we were less than 50 feet from the car, it was a surmountable distance but not something I was expected to do inside of me.  Somewhere a yes erupted from my mouth and it was on.  We both got to the car at the same time.  I believe this only to be true because my boots were unzipped slowing my movement down (lol).  But when we both arrived at the car we looked at each other and laughed.  I wonder if this is the joy of play.  We were both breathing a little harder, smiling a lot more and basking in exhilaration.  And in that moment I realized my son had invited me outside of myself.  Outside of me was beautiful, carefree and light.

16Apr

Pain is Part of the Journey

Yesterday I had lunch with the former and first pastor of Good News Community Church.  He is sort of like a miracle in that he has had some health challenges and is still alive.  Doctors have commented on him having survived.   He looks well but he explains to me he is very sick.  They are treating him for an auto immune disease that only 500 people in the world carry.  His daughter, whose field is not even autoimmune, worked tirelessly to find a cure and refused to let the doctors pull the cord on him, years ago when he was put in a coma for life preservation.  Finally she came up with a treatment that he responded to and that saved his life.  His memory is like a dried out rubber band so that in seconds he can forget the day or time or location.  His phone has his emergency contact information should he have an episode or should his brain not remember.  All the brain exercises that strengthen most people’s brain are a no no for him.  His brain is best relaxed.  As I sat listening to his story over the last few years and experiencing it, as I saw his mind working to communicate, I felt an unbearable weight.  I felt  a mix of gratitude and sadness.

I have always thought of pain as something we cause one another for our unwise acts.  But in those moments the former pastor shared the incredible pain he has caused to his wife and family without guilt.  I know if he could  he would take this pain away.  It is not a pain he would want them to have nor is it a pain they would not carry out of their love for him.  He is grateful for what his family does for him.  He complies more readily with the care plan designed for him.  His life is a series of calendars, alerts, phone calls, medicine and check ins. He must be monitored.  And yet, even with the work of fully listening to another whose brain is fleeting, we broke bread.  We had a wonderful meal and we talked about our lives.  We inquired about each other.  I understood him perfectly.  Perhaps I expected to pick his brain more but when I saw what that could do I adapted to a less rigorous conversation.  And I was encouraged because we shared and that inspite of his brain challenges we were able to find our way to each other.

In that moment I saw how pain can be something we tolerate and carry out of love for another.  I saw pain differently.  I saw it as more than a selfish act that hurts another.  Life brings us pain.  Love ones bring us pain.  Living brings us pain.  It is out of our connectedness with others that we can feel at all.  It is out of desires and hopes that sometimes the distance between where we are and where we want to be that causes us to bow over in pain.  I have felt a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, in the last year but it is not all that I have felt.  But after my meal with the former pastor, I understand pain not just as a burden but a part of my journey.

03Apr

Anthony Stokes & Second Chances

There’s a young adult at my church who loves to takes pictures of himself holding alcohol and money and then post them on Facebook.  I know he thinks it’s cool but is about the craziest thing I’ve seen.  I get he is a part of a different culture and this is what you do.  I sort of think of him as I look at Anthony Stokes picture of himself holding a real gun pointed somewhere.  He too is a part of that same age group and culture that finds it cool to post pictures that portray self as bad motherfucker.  I get it but once again it send a different message to many outside of that culture.  It definitely doesn’t give me the warm fuzzy feeling.

Anthony Stokes seems to have had a few brushes with the law and some criminal activity.  He had a bad heart.  He was on a waiting list two years ago for a heart transplant.  He was turned down.  The whys are not very clear.  His family believes they turned him down because of his criminal activity.  The hospital says it was because of noncompliance with medicine.  The family says that the hospital did not have proof of noncompliance.  Some advocacy work was done on behalf of Anthony and the hospital reversed it’s decision.  Anthony got the heart he needed and said he would take advantage of this second chance.

Anthony got his second chance with the heart transplant.  By second chance I mean he got the heart that allowed him to live two more years before stealing a car, burglarizing a home and shooting at an elderly woman and speeding away from the cops, only to have it end with him losing control of the car, hitting another women, and crashing.  By second chance I mean he got 600 more days to make choices and self actualize.  By second chance he got the opportunity to do things differently.  By second chance he now had time to do the things he said he would do with this second chance, like going to school.  But maybe a second chance wasn’t enough.  Maybe he needed more chances.  Or maybe chances wasn’t what he needed at all.  Or how many chances should one get anyhow.

Anthony’s heart transplant was controversial.  Those that felt like he should not have been given one are now saying it was wasted on him.  I read one mom’s comment on losing her 12 year old son who was on a list.  There are others that think this could lead to the demonizing of all black males.  I’m sure there are many stories and many paths.  This case evokes all kinds of feelings in me too.  I can’t erase the images of Anthony holding a gun, like it’s a cool thing to do, hoping he did not think it was cool to shoot that elderly woman.  But that said, I think he deserved a second chance.  I regret that it wasn’t enough for him but I’m glad he got it.  I’m glad Anthony Stokes got a second chance.

04Mar

The Quality of Life: Bobbi Kristina On Life Support

A few years ago I attended a church member’s relative funeral.  The pastor, giving the eulogy, used a lot of words but two sentences registered.  He said there’s one way in and one way out.  Second, he said it’s not how long you live but what is the quality of the life you live.  He was saying you can live and be so sick that you are not really living.  Sometimes we equate longevity with a good life but his distinction helped me to see clearer that living is the capacity to engage and be engage.

I asked my bible study group, this past week, if there child was brain dead for several weeks and on life support could they pull the plug.  A group of diverse people racially and gender wise answered differently.  Everyone said yes except my two black mothers.  I, a black mother too, also knew that I had struggled with this question.  I’m not sure of my own capabilities.  Somewhere I still have this belief in the impossible.  However, my partner, who is also a black mother says she could.  It’s not an easy decision but it seemed so hard for the black mothers in the room.

I think people tend to hold on to a lot of in life.  It seems to be in our DNA.  We hold on to good and bad memories.  Some of us hold on to hurt real good.  We hold on to those we love.  We hold on to those we love deeply even when the situation seems less than ideal.  We hold on to promises and hope.  Depending on what we are holding on to we can be pulled down or ignited out.  But I try to ponder the ways in which we hold on, to journey to Bobbi Krsitina’s family keeping her on life support.  And if this were me, would I be holding on as well?

It was posted on the internet that Bobbi Kristina celebrated another birthday which gets me back to the pastor’s comment about the quality of life.  Did she eat cake or blow out candles?  What did she do?  Oh no I forgot she’s in an induced coma.  It seems like Bobbi isn’t living.  Based on the doctor’s reports she’s not brain dead.  The road back is so hard and far and uphill and she’s shown no signs of being up for the journey.  When they tried to take her out of the coma it did not work.  The quality of her life is being compromised.  Maybe, and only in such instance when life isn’t life, it’s okay to let go.

 

27Feb

The U in Success

So my son’s school has this corny saying, we can’t spell success without u.  It’s so corny, but I get it.  Seriously, kids need their parents to succeed.  I’m not just talking about grades and academic competency, but parents are crucial to a child’s holistic development to become what they need to navigate an increasingly more complex and stressful world.  I understand that having parents involved really is a part of success.  It’s not the only thing but it’s most certainly important.

I’ve started using it with my church.  As I struggle with the challenges of a small church – finances, volunteer participation, vision, etc.  It seems like the church becomes accustomed to a few folks doing all the work.  Or maybe the few leave the impression that the rest are not needed.  Increasingly, I realize that we really need all the members to sustain the small church.

This leads me to what I really want to talk about and that’s the distortion of success.  For much of my life I have looked at how society labels and affirms some as successful while others are less rarely spoken about.  It’s unavoidable.  My last job before church employment I was a director.  There were two directors that were lifted up as successful.   They had the most dollars coming into their departments.  They received awards after awards.  One of them was my boss and I knew she was crazy before she became my boss.  You may question if I was hating but honestly I was not.  I am an organic intuitive mental health therapist and crazy was coming from my boss’s pores.  The years rolled by and it became increasingly clear.  We even had to consult a lawyer as my boss deteriorated.  But I knew it from day 1.  I knew it and my boss knew it.  Hospitalization was next.  The situation got worse.

Some of who we label as successful are people who are successful.  A turn of good events comes their way.  They look favorable to those around them.  For a host of reasons, partly them, and external they get labeled successful. Some people have worked hard and a kairos moment that sparked their visibility.  They experience the accolades of success.  They get more opportunities.  It’s not a matter of one door closing and another open but multiple doors open to them.  The harvest is experienced in abundance.  This is their season and year.

And here is my concern.  It gives the sense that others are not successful.  A man walks to work for 10 years.  His story is told.  A college student list him on an internet raise money site.  300,000 is raised.  Now he’s scared for his life because there are other crabs trying to get out of the pot.  He is relocated.  He no longer walks to work.  His life has changed.  But there are others.  There are lots of others that get up and do similar unbelievable things.  I serve them.  I see them.  I work with them.  Many of them I have not met but I know they are out there.  I am them.  And for those people I just want to say we cannot spell success without u.

11Feb

Jackie Robinson West Little League: You Are Winners!

So when the Jackie Robinson West Little League was the first African American little league team to win the U.S.  Championship in the Little League World Series it sent a wave of pride through the black community.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed but I felt the enormity of this title.  A little league team from Chicago won was one of those feel good stories.  In a community where crime and violence have a great impact, this was a positive.  And the black community needs such positives.  So all kinds of stories around the players and team came out.  And we ate it up like we were starving for more positive things about us.

So today we are being told that the team redrew it’s boundaries.  And they sought top players from other close by areas.  And they broke the rules and regulations of little league.  And they did this all without anyone’s permission.  And even after the first investigation was closed they did a second investigation.  And now it’s been proven that the manager was unethical.  And he got other local teams to sign on to this unethical decision.  The team has had it’s title taken and the manager is suspended.

So I got a few questions that probably mean relatively little. Why were we investigating this team?  Why did we do a second investigation when the first one was closed?  Could we not fathom or accept that a team of black boys could win?  Why are we coming out several months later?  And no team has ever violated any boundaries?  I’ve seen invested parents and they are crazy and none stops them usually.  I don’t know but this all sounds just a little fishy for someone who is not a conspiracy theorist at all.  My nose thinks it smells a fish somewhere.  By extending their boundaries perhaps they improved their odds but nobody gave this team anything.  There’s bad sportsmanship and it’s not the kids.

Personally,  I would have tried to sweep this one under the rug.  For all the good it did, I think sometimes correcting what is perceived to be a wrong is more harmful than letting it go.  I think one can move forward enforcing the boundaries and having lengthy discussions but my heart goes out to the kids and their families.  Whether they stretched the boundaries or not they still played the game.  When there are so many strikes against young black boys, winning at anything, including sports, is worth a standing ovation.  So for those impressionable young males alone I would have tried to handle this situation differently.

So unless some other stunning information comes in, I think this team won the national championship.  Even more, black young males got a chance to experience the success that comes with hard work and team spirit.  They got a chance to be exposed to the larger world.  And they got a chance to receive praise and affirmation. As far as I am concern nothing has changed but I know it has because the world can be very unkind.  The real work begins now as we show our support and we encourage them to believe,  even when no one sings you a song of praise, you are a winner.  As the press releases this damaging blow I hope that each of those boys, with the support of the village,th-26 will move forward to be the winner they have already proven themselves to be.

09Feb

Precious Lord Please Get Beyonce

You ought to know I am not a Beyonce follower.  But it’s also important to know I am not a hater.  I recognize that she is talented and poised and brings a new flavor for what it means to be black, woman and intelligent.  I even took the time to watch part of her tour with JayZ.  The Beyonce movement felt a little contagious.  She works her body and voice in such a way that one does feel mesmerized.  The girl is a force!  And I am glad we have her.

So Beyonce sang Precious Lord at the Grammy’s this year even though she was not chosen to sing it in the movie, Selma.  According to news sources she came forward making the request to sing it to John Legend and the response was you don’t say no to Beyonce.  This girl really is a force.  But Beyonce says this song has deep meaning for her.  Her grandparents marched with Martin Luther King Jr.  Her father helped integrate schools.  And the male choir symbolizes for her the vulnerability  black men face.  She wanted to show black men in a positive light.  She wanted to support the message that black lives matter.

Were their men standing behind Beyonce?  So this this performance was about black men?  So she asked could she sing so she could bring a political message to the Grammys?  Honestly, I barely remember the men.  What I remember was Beyonce standing in a partial see through outfit, long weave, and barking in her performance voice.  It was an nice performance but that’s all I saw.  I miss the political piece.  And again she gives great concerts.  This was no exception.  This is what Beyonce does well.  I am not hating.

So I already said I have nothing against Beyonce.  What does bother me is this marketing of self to the extent that it becomes all about her mostly.  I think Beyonce promotes herself 200%.  And I’m not mad at her.  But given who she is and the opportunities that have come her way, I think this once when she stepped forward, she could have step back to support and even promoted another sister, like the one who originally sang the song, Ledisi.  And if she really wanted to promote brothers why not promote one sister and arrange the whole piece and then again, step back like an Oprah Jr.  If it really was about black lives matter then why did we need to see her face at all. because Beyonce when you are on stage the black lives message all but fades away.

If Beyonce had just said I wanted to perform the piece then I would have gone on about my business.  But she said it was a political message.  She said it was about the violence happening in our world against black bodies.  She wanted to add her voice in support.  And if that is even remotely true then I think she could have gone about it much differently.  Because yes black lives on all spheres matter.  And Ledisi life matters.  And sister to sister you could have added to your power by showing just how far this message is a part of your being.  So I am asking Precious Lord please take Beyonce’s hand, in fact humanity’s,  and grant us more capability for seeing the entire human choir.

05Feb

Crack: Bobbi Kristina Brown

There are cracks.  Perhaps you have not really noticed them but these are places where people can fall.  Perhaps your heal one time or another got caught in one otherwise we rarely notice them. But there are cracks that bring us down.  Sometimes we are pulled back.  Sometimes we are pulled back. And sometimes we fall long and hard.  And sometimes we are lost forever.  I think Bobbi Kristina fell through a crack.

I am aware of the fragility of life.  I’m not talking about I heard a gun shot or saw an accident kind of awareness about the fragility of life.  I’m talking about living in my own body.  I hear sometimes my heart jumping over obstacles and throwing me out of rhythm.  I feel aches in my feet and arms.  I feel my emotions soaring.  I feel gravity tugging and pulling on me.  I feel my brain unable to recover information or getting lost in the dark.  And sometimes I feel myself vulnerable, shaking, and close to falling through the cracks.  It is in that moment, like today, where I sit very still hoping I will come back.  I am aware, the longer I live, of humanity’s fragility through being aware of my own.

I can only imagine the life of Bobbi Kristina.  Every time I look at her parents in the throes of addiction I can only imagine.  Her parents had all the money to extend a ride that should have ended much sooner.  And out of their fall they produced a girl child.  And they raised her with the privilege of money and the abundance of addictive substances.  They lived in their addiction limiting the amount of nourishment they could instill in a girl child.  And she loved them back in spite of themselves because that’s what children do.  And I believe their daughter never had a chance.  She was cursed day by her parents.

I cannot pray for God to bring her back.  This is a really bad song that has played out.  There are mountains and then there are mountains and this girl would have to climb a serious mountain.  She would have to slay demons.  She would have to walk through hell.  She would need shoulders to cry on and plenty of arms to hold her and hands that never let her go.  She would have to experience healing not just by the laying on of hands but the sitting in someone’s chair for years.  She would have to be born again.  And there would still be a void and visible scars.  She would have to crawl back through the crack.

I am reminded of a preacher who said people don’t commit suicide but situations and things kill people.  I’m not implying Bobbi Kristina committed suicide but she’s been killing herself for a while finishing off what her parents began.  I don’t blame her cause this girl never had a fighting chance.  I think places and things happened and Bobbi Kristina was knocked out.  I think that trauma is written all over that girl and it’s taking her out.  Bobbi Kristina is already dead and for some of us we hold out the possibility that she will live because it makes us feel better.  But as for me I recognize and accept this one fell through the cracks.

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