Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing


February 2017

I Am Me, Not My Story

I was looking through my journal from last year.  I’ve told you before that last year wasn’t a happy time for me, but seeing my words–reading my anguish and despair–made me feel something that I didn’t expect to feel, gratitude.  I was filled with gratitude, not necessarily for the events and reasons for my anguish, but for the growth that has taken place to bring me from those moments to where I am now.

There are many people who upon finding out who my dad is (I told y’all I still say is cause speaking of him in the past tense doesn’t feel right), throw many assumption upon me.  If I’m honest, I have relatives who throw those same assumptions–which I find strange as they know of the hurdles my immediate family went through to get to where my dad eventually led us.  The assumptions always contain the same theory–my life has been great, easy even.  Even today, my life must be great with no real struggles or difficulties.  The truth is that my life has been full of difficulties.  I will admit that there have been some great moments and times, but those moments don’t by any means negate the strife.  When I’ve shared my story with others, they are often left shocked and they usually say the same thing, “I would have never guessed.”  That only fuels my belief that there is no way to know a person’s life by looking at the surface.  It’s one of the very reasons I’m so fascinated by the other mere mortals and their stories.  We all have a story and I believe with everything that I have that we are meant to share those stories to help one another.

In saying that though, I recognize that there is a tendency to tell one’s story so much that one begins to identify with their story.  One begins to see themselves as nothing more than the details and events of his or her story.  I fell into that trap for a long while.  I think a lot of my journey through this last year was about me releasing my identity with my story.  I became so wrapped up in the tragic things that happened to me that I felt that that was all there was to me.  I repeatedly told the tragic events of my life to the point that they became my identity.  My answer to the question, Who are you? was This happened to me and that and this and this then that and some more.  I couldn’t see those things as simple external conditions that had no bearing on who I was.

I don’t know when things began to shift for me, but I know they did.  I realized recently that I was no longer identifying with my story when I posted a Throwback Thursday photo of my beloved deceased Maltese, Snowball.  A friend asked me if he’d died and I told her yes.  I then relayed the details of things–how he passed 2 years after my dad and my divorce and a year after the passing of my grandfather.  My cousin jokingly referenced the movie Life with me.  He referenced the scene where Eddie Murphy’s character Ray reads the letter from his fellow inmate, Pokerface.  His mother’s neighbor writes him detailing all of the tragic things that have happened since he became locked up.  The letter is full of tragedy.   His cousins, sister, parents and even his dog died. It was funny in the movie, but in real life, not so much?  Yet I laughed when my cousin went there–and not to mask my pain–but because I genuinely found it funny.  That’s when it hit me.  I no longer identify with those things.  Those things no longer define me.  I have moved past needing to anchor myself with those events.  To think, for a long time, I would tell people I was a bad country song.  I even found some honor in that.  I’m truly grateful to be beyond those days and that line of thinking.

I have been speaking at Sarcoidosis events for the past 7 years and last year was the first year that I didn’t enjoy myself. The event itself was lovely.  However, I didn’t enjoy myself because I’m required to share my father’s Sarcoidosis “story.”  I don’t enjoy telling it any longer because I feel like it doesn’t do my father any justice.  It’s not his story.  Yes, he had some experiences with the disease.  However, I no longer wish to reheat the same soup year after year.  His life was so much more than his illness, the hospitalizations, allergic reactions to medication and his ultimate death.  The short of it is that he’s not that story.  So I have to stop telling it.  I have to stop telling it for him and for myself.  It no longer serves.

If you’re not already in a space where you recognize that you are not your story, the sum of your parts of your life, I hope you are on your way. My wish for you is that you can see that whatever has happened is already behind you and does not necessarily dictate where you can go.  And it’s ok if you’re not.  I wasn’t for a long time. But I’m so thankful I am now.

This Is Us Really Is Us

So can we talk about last night’s episode of This Is Us?  I have long since become a huge fan of the show and I am not ashamed to admit that I cry at every single episode. Every. Single. One. Each episode touches me in a way that makes me think they can’t possibly make me cry any harder than I did on the previous one.  Yet, they prove me wrong each time.  They did not fail to up the ante yet again with last night’s episode titled, Memphis.

In this episode, we found our beloved Randall taking a cross-country trip (even though he’d told his wife it wasn’t a cross-country trip) to take his ailing biological father William to his old stomping ground of Memphis.  It was significant for both of them because William was dying of Stage 4 stomach cancer and this is on the heels of Randall’s nervous breakdown from the previous week.  If you follow the show, you know that Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca because William and Randall’s mother were drug addicts, so William left baby Randall at a fire station.  They reunited in the first episode when adult Randall showed up unannounced on William’s door step.  Since then, we’ve watched their relationship evolve from strangers to a more intimate father/son relationship.

Last night’s episode was so moving for many different reasons but for me, it was a beautiful vision of what I wish I could have had to experience with my father.  Death is an interesting part of life.  We all know it’s going to happen, yet we are ill prepared when it does occur.  I loved that Randall was able to spend his father’s dying days with him, learning about him, growing with him, and even usher him into his dying breath.  It was so beautiful.  And it brought me to tears.  I was a blubbering mess in my bed.  I cried sad tears for Randall because he was losing another dad, and right when the getting was getting good.  I cried for William because he got to end his life on a happy note.  At the end, he told Randall that he didn’t have a happy life, yet the two things that were good to him were the person at the beginning and the person at the end.

And through all of my tears, I couldn’t miss that there was a part of me crying for myself. Entertainment can provide us with such a gift, and that is the ability to shine a light on some of the realest, most intimate parts of life.  I can think of no more intimate part of life than death and dealing with the death of a loved one–particularly a parent.  The writer of This Is Us gave us all (well let me speak for myself) me such a gift because it provided a glimpse into a real  moment of a relationship.  We got to see a father and a son have honest, yet difficult dialogue about life and death.  It can be so difficult to have those conversations, but I truly believe that they are so worthwhile.

While watching, I recalled the moment my father died and I wished I could have had those moments with my dad. For a long time, I felt that I was robbed of that moment.  My dad was feeling under the weather one day, went to the doctor and next thing I know I was getting a call that he was on a ventilator after going through sepsis.  He remained on that ventilator for three weeks.  He was sedated for the duration of those three weeks as well.  We never got a chance to talk.  I didn’t get to ask him questions or tell him how I felt.  The closest we came to that was during week 3 when he awoke for a moment.  He was still on the ventilator, so he couldn’t speak, but he mouthed the words to me, “I’m dead.”  I didn’t take him seriously because he would speak like that when he was sick.  I brushed it off, but he shook his head No and mouthed the words again.  He even went limp to show me what it would look like.  I laughed because I didn’t want it to be true.  While I always say I didn’t realize he was warning me, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I knew he was telling the truth.  But I wasn’t ready then to admit that so I dismissed him and hoped he was wrong.  He died two days later. He didn’t get to die surrounded by mom and me.  No, instead he died alone in a room with doctors.  He didn’t get the peaceful transition that William received.  He crashed several times, was revived each time, until that final one where he just would not return.  That haunted me for years.  I wanted closure. I wanted to have been able to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and tell him it’s ok.  Since I never got the chance, I have envisioned how our final conversation would have gone if we’d been given the chance.  I feel like it would have gone something like this . . .

Dad:  Well Boops, it’s been real. But I gotta go.

Me:  Wait, don’t go yet!  There’s still so much more I want to talk to you about.

Dad:  Now what did I tell you? Be strong. I’ll always be with you.  You’re going to be fine. Take care of my granddaughter. Watch your back and be strong for your mama.  I’m counting on you.

Me:  Wait, you’re dying and THIS is what you have to say to me?  Not I love you.  Not I’m proud, but be strong?

Dad: I just can’t do right by you. Can I, Je’Niece?  I’m dying and  I still just can’t do right by you.  I told you before, I’m a hard man and I don’t make no bones about that.  Now I said I gotta go.   

Me:  Well dang, fine!  But don’t be a stranger.  And since you won’t say it, I will.  I love you, Man.  

Dad: I love you more.  

But I never got that moment. So I’ll have to live vicariously through Randall and William. It was a beautiful moment so I can live with that.  Thank you to the writers of This Is Us.  I cried some of the ugliest tears I’ve ever cried, but you gave me such a gift with each tear.

Silencing My Inner Critic

A very warm and joyous Friday to you!  I am still riding my high from the weekend and I’ve decided to consciously choose to live on this high for the rest of my life.  I say that with the full understanding that life is going to happen and every moment won’t necessarily be a pleasant one.  However, I recognized that allowing myself to get overwhelmed to the point that I need a get away doesn’t serve me well.  I recognized a lot this weekend.  One of the things that became glaringly obvious to me was the way that I speak to myself.  I caught myself and I actually cringed.  I asked myself, Why do you speak this way to yourself? and I recognized that it was my inner critic speaking.  My inner critic was a harsh one.  But I had to have a sit down with her and I think it was the start of a beautiful ending of a relationship.


My Cup

I had such a wonderful weekend! I got to go to Texas to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We went to a retreat dedicated to femininity and it was so rejuvenating and affirming. I laughed. I cried. I ate delicious food. I hung out with some lovely women. And I did it all in 80 and 70 degree weather! Now that may not seem like such a big deal to some of you. But for this Chicago born and raised girl, 70 and 80 degrees in February is like finding shelter after a raging storm. It’s sweet relief. So that was the whip cream and cherry (if I liked cherries) on an already decadent and rich, brownie, fudge and caramel sundae.

The friend I visited has been one of my dearest friends for about 20 years. We have been through so much together. There’s just something to be said for having friends like her. We haven’t seen one another in ages, but whenever we see one another we’re laughing and talking as if we have never missed a beat.  I love meeting new people and making connections, but there’s just something about the ones you have with those who know you best.  My friend took great care of me over the weekend.  She told me to just bring myself and not worry about a thing. I have no idea why she told me not to worry, considering how well she knows me.  Worry is what I do.  It’s what I know.  But I did my best to listen to her.  My friend treated me to some of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, a massage, and the joy of being a passenger while she drove us to our destinations.  When I tell you this was all like sweet manna!

However, as much as I enjoyed myself, I have to admit that it did bring up some issues for me.  I didn’t have to contribute anything this weekend but myself.  All I had to do was sit back and receive.  Yet, that was incredibly difficult for me.  I wanted to do something. I even felt guilty.  It allowed me to recognize that I don’t know how to receive.  I am so accustomed to giving to others, yet I am not as accustomed to being given to.  And that’s just one more thing I need to release.

When I began examining this phenomenon of mine, I realized that it’s behavior that I learned from my parents.  See, both of my parents are givers. Correction, they are over-givers.  They give to everyone–even when not asked.  They felt like it was their duty to take care of everyone. My dad was an especially generous over-giver.  He had a wonderful heart, yet he had a habit of inserting himself where he wasn’t necessarily needed, nor asked to be.  He would go out of his way to take care of others–which would result in his depleting himself and becoming resentful.  He would resent that he wasn’t appreciated and that others didn’t go out of their way for him the way he did for them.  I guess when it became too much, he created the idea that it was better to take care of yourself than to allow others to take care of you. Always have your own and always do for yourself. Don’t let anybody do anything for you.  He taught me that and I accepted it.  I believed as he taught me–it was a sign of strength to be self-sufficient and not allow anyone to do anything for  you.  I grew up watching that behavior and assumed it was healthy until I began to follow in his foot steps.  I created the one-sided relationships.  I began to experience the resentment.  I resented being the go-to person for everyone.  Yet, as much as I resented it, I didn’t stop my pattern.  I kept doing the same thing in different relationships–romantic, platonic, associate level–expecting different results. Well, that’s the very definition of insanity.

Refusing to accept love, support, and any other good thing isn’t really strong though. It’s just something wounded people do to mask their fear of rejection.  I learned this weekend that I am so accustomed to operating from a place of lack.  I deplete myself.  And then I seek ways to recharge myself.  Iyanla Vanzant says, “My cup runneth over.  What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine.”  I haven’t been living that way. I’ve been pouring my cup all the way out and giving everything that’s in my cup so that there’s nothing left for me to sip when I thirst.

imagesWhat I didn’t realize until this weekend is that the reason        that my father and I were such over-givers and the reason we don’t allow our cup to runneth over is because deep down we didn’t believe we could have symbiotic relationships.  We didn’t believe we could have people look out for us, do for us, be there for us.  And why did we believe this, you ask? Well, let me answer.  It’s the thing that’s behind the answer to the question I was asked this weekend, which was What do you have to prove and who do you have to prove it to?  My answer was simple and I didn’t even have to think about it.  My answer was that I have to prove that I’m worthy to everyone. But the truth is, I don’t really need to prove it to everyone.  Everyone is my scape goat so that I don’t have to face that my real aggressor is the woman in the mirror.  So the truth is that I have to prove I’m worthy to myself.  Worthy of what, you ask?  Well, let me also answer that as well.  Worthy of good things.  Ahh . . . Now you see how all the dots connect!  My issue of worthiness blocks me from accepting and receiving good things.  No matter how much I want them, I will never have them or enjoy them until I understand one simple truth.  I am worthy.  I am worthy because I am.  I don’t have to do anything, say anything, or be anything to be worthy.  I also don’t have to prove it to myself.  I just need to accept it.

I can’t thank my friend enough for taking such great care of me.  She taught me a lot this weekend. She taught me how to sit my tail down and accept love, support, and a massage (can’t forget the massage). But she provided me with a wonderful lesson that if you allow, people will show up and love you.  Good things will come to you. But you have to let them in.  It’s now time for me to get on with the business of me pouring into my cup so that it can start running(eth) over.

Releasing My Security Blanket

Happy Friday!  No matter what may be going on for you, I hope that you know that you are powerful beyond measure and that where you are today is NOT necessarily an indication of where you will travel on your journey, nor of your final destination.  It took me a while to understand that.  I’d unfortunately gotten to so low a space that I truly believed that there would never be anything else for me. I didn’t understand that one of the reasons I was stuck believing that is because I was holding on to my security blanket. Oh, not a real one. Nope, this was purely metaphorical. Want to know what my security blanket was? Well, watch the video. Hopefully, it helps you recognize what yours are so that you too can get on with the business of moving forward.

*The Walter Latham Relentless video that I mention can be found here*

Sensitivity is the New Strong

I love the way the Universe works.  Pay attention and you’re sure to get a message or confirmation of something that’s been making itself known to you.  That happened to me yesterday.  I wrote this post some days ago.  I’d been mulling it around for a while and finally got around to writing it.  But once I wrote it, I just left it sitting in the drafts.  I didn’t want to share it.   I was resisting it for some reason.  But I saw a post from my mentor, Namaste Moore, as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and it spoke exactly to what this post is about. So I took that as a loving nudge from The Universe to get out of my own way, and so here I am sharing it. Ok, on with the show.

I’ve been telling you since the beginning of the year how the past year has been all about me unpacking my past. I’m still in the process of unpacking. I’ve got a lot of stuff to purge. 30 plus years of issues. And because they’re so layered, once I purge one thing, I find another beneath it. As I’ve been unpacking a lot of my issues that I’ve tagged onto my dad, I recognized that I need to accept my sensitivity. I’ve always been an extremely sensitive person.  It was problematic for me because my father taught me that it was a problem. I wasn’t supposed to be sensitive. Sensitivity was weakness. Sensitivity meant I was a punk. And I needed to be tough because my father wasn’t raising any punks and the world wasn’t going to be kind to a punk. According to my father, the world was cold and unrelenting, full of people wanting to hurt me and if I didn’t get myself together it was going to chew me up and spit me out.  So I needed to be strong, independent, and able to take care of myself and others. Also according to my father, I wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things carrying my sensitivity around. So I had to get to getting with the business of toughening up.

silhouette-1564372_640          My sensitivity displayed itself in ways that seemed to get under my father’s skin. One of my worst offenses was that I cried. A lot. Actually I still do. I cried if I was happy. I cried if I was sad. Or mad. I even cried if I saw another in pain. But that was unacceptable for my father.  Crying was for punks and I needed to stop crying all of the time.  I remember one such episode when I was 9 years old.  A boy on my school bus punched me in the eye.  While my dad did defend me once he found out, he was also quite upset with me for not fighting the way he thought I should have.  He became incredibly upset when he asked me, What did you do after he punched you? only to hear me say in response, I cried. I thought it was a ridiculous question.  It hurt. Crying when hurt is a normal response, correct?  What was I supposed to do?  My father thought it a ridiculous response. Who in the hell cries when they get hurt?  Hell naw that ain’t normal!  I was supposed to kick the boy’s ass!  That’s what I was supposed to do.  So he told me that I needed to kick his ass the next day, otherwise he would kick mine. Now to some, this probably seems like a reasonable order from a parent.  It certainly was based on my dad’s own upbringing.  He was old school.  Old school wasn’t about being a punk.  Punks jumped up to get beat down, so you best not be a punk.  That meant you didn’t let anybody hurt you.  If you got hurt, it was your fault.  I didn’t know at the time, but for my father that applied to my emotional self as well as my physical self.  As far as he was concerned, he was doing it for my own good.  He would even lament about how hard it was to raise a daughter because he couldn’t be as hard on me as he wanted to be–certainly not as hard as he could be with a boy.  He hated how soft he had to be with me.  I, on the other hand, was perplexed as to how he could possibly think he was soft at all.

The thing about the way my father raised me was that it didn’t work for me.  As he lamented, I wasn’t a boy. I was, indeed a girl.  That meant that I was soft. But softness didn’t mean weakness.  It was just my make up. I was (and still am) sensitive.  I was compassionate. I didn’t physically fight. But I also wasn’t a pushover.  Actually, his harshness caused me to shrink more than my sensitivity ever did.  And the effects of his harshness lasted well into my adulthood.  I struggled with my sensitivity.  I hated myself for feeling all of my feelings–especially hurt.  I hated myself for crying.  I actually still hate to cry in front of people.  I felt like I was going against everything my father stood for whenever I would and even though I would never admit it to him, I desperately wanted his approval–and even to be just like him.  I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be all he wanted because I was his only child.  I hated myself whenever I didn’t do what I thought he would do–even if I didn’t agree with him! What I now know is that I was (and still am) a lot like my father–sensitivity and all.  When he was chastising me about my sensitivity, he was actually chastising himself.  He didn’t like that he was sensitive (and believe me, he was).  He saw it as weakness so he developed a bark so loud that no fool ever dare test him. While I, on the other hand, didn’t feel the need to bark. I was content being me. I felt like whomever didn’t like it would leave me alone and those who did would fall in line with me.  But because he didn’t know better, he taught me that I was wrong to feel that way.  And because I didn’t know better, I learned to believe him.  So I packed that gem and have been carrying it around with me ever since.  Until today.

What I know today is that my sensitivity (and my father’s for that matter) is not a weakness.  It’s actually a strength.  And the audacity to be as sensitive as I am without attempting to cover it–to allow myself to be vulnerable–is an even greater strength. I’m embracing my sensitivity and softness.  I’m embracing being vulnerable.  I also know that my father did the best he could with what he had so I don’t need to be angry with him for teaching me as he did.  I know that I also did the best I could, so I don’t need to be angry with myself for carrying the burden as long as I have.  I’m learning to be gentle with myself.  And while he didn’t necessarily directly do it, my father taught me that. And for that I’m grateful.  So as Forrest Gump said, that’s good, one less thing.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I might have been awfully uncomfortable last year when having to face the contents of my baggage, but these days post unpacking have been quite enlightening.  I believe Erykah Badu said it best when she instructed in her song, Bag Lady to pack light. So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m packing light.  And I gotta say, I like it.  A lot.

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