Happy Friday! I believe I’ve told you before that I’m an introspective person. I think a lot about who I am, who I want to be and what I want out of life. While many may think that’s noble–and I’m one of those people, I have found that this is just another example of the pros and cons of life. What I have found in my existential quest to introspect is that I tend to think so much that it impedes my ability to act. I don’t actually DO much because I’m so busy thinking about what I’m going to do, how I’m going to do and when would be the best time to do it–among other things. That’s no way to live! So I’ve become intentional about making choices so that I’m not finding myself stuck. It was really scary initially because there was this fear of making the “wrong” choice (I can also be a bit of a perfectionist). But as I found myself deep within the throes of a crisis while trying to avoid making the “wrong” decision, I heard a big small voice tell me to calm down and simply choose and consider the question, What if every choice was the right one? Ahhhhh . . .
Happy Friday! I’m severely under the weather today and I actually haven’t had a voice for much of the week. As such, I haven’t been able to record any new videos. However, I did come across a video that I recorded earlier this year that I never got a chance to post and I feel like it’s really fitting since it’s the last few days of the year and we’re going to start assessing 2017 and declaring what we want for 2018. Look at Gawd! Won’t He do it! The Fizzle actually inspired this. I watched her do the same thing and become frustrated because she felt that she wasn’t. I was all set to get upset with her and then it hit me. How often have I done the very same thing over and over again. I’ve put my song of life on repeat and thought that since I changed a lyric or two that I really did something different. But I hadn’t. And while I won’t put you on the spot, I’m sure I’m not alone in that. At first it made me sad. But as I looked at it further, I recognized that it is good news for us. That means the change we seek is closer than we think because it is within us. Hooray! Happy changing my friends.
Happy Friday! Well, Saturday now. My apologies for this late post, but I had some severe technological issues yesterday that prevented me from posting this yesterday. But what is a delay, save for a chance to try again? So here we go. Remember when you were learning to drive? Remember hearing this term, defensive driving? I do. I was taught that it meant that I needed to drive under the expectation that other drivers could possibly cause harm to my vehicle–either through illegal turns, running red lights, lane changes, etc. I needed to be alert and aware that danger lurked behind the wheel of every vehicle and driving was a dangerous task. As I ponder that idea, it has occurred to me that I was taught the same thing about life. I wasn’t taught that life is full of joy and love. On the contrary, I was taught that life is hard and full of struggle and danger. I was taught that I needed to live defensively–being aware that any and almost every body in my life meant me harm and I needed to protect myself from said hard. It has permeated every facet of my life, save for Motherhood. I grew up expecting the worst from others–even in the most benign of situations. It’s strange to think about now because I wonder how much more could I have enjoyed life (and my father as well) if I’d recognized this sooner? Just think about it. Defensive driving makes sense, but defensive living? I’m not so sure. I’m not saying that there isn’t danger in the world. I recognize that it exists. However, I know for me, life hasn’t been nearly as bad as I’ve anticipated it to be. And I’m not so sure that living defensively (not to be mistaken for living on the edge), has served me as well as I intended.
*About a month ago, I spoke about how we can actually become addicted to the negative experiences in our lives and this is one of the ways it can begin.
Aahh . . . Love. Love of family, friends, and people in general. It’s a beautiful thing. It feels good to love on people and have them love on you. And when you love people, you care about what happens to them. You care about the things they do. It’s the benevolent thing to do. And it’s only right. Right? Well . . . yes, and no. It’s great to care about our loved ones. But far too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that overstepping our boundaries and inserting ourselves into the business affairs of our loved ones displays love and concern. And like Dwayne and Walter proclaimed on “A Campfire Story” episode of A Different World, “That’s when the fight broke out!” Inserting ourselves where we don’t belong into the lives of our loved ones is a surefire way to create division in our relationships. But we feel justified to do so. After all, we have valid opinions. We can see what they cannot. So it’s our duty to let them know exactly what we think about what they’re doing, what they need to do, and what they should do in the future. And to add insult to injury, we’re actually insulted when our benevolent advice is not met with gratitude. However well intentioned we may be, we can be quite guilty of crossing lines when we do this. Actually, our opinions are not “good” or “bad.” We may even have some sound advice. Hell, we may actually *gasp* be right. Now, I’m not speaking of when those we love are causing themselves great harm (say for example, in a case of a severely depressed person, or an addiction). But in the case of every day living, sometimes we get so busy living our loved ones lives that we forget to live our own. And it’s not as if we haven’t been warned about doing this. Jesus told us to remove the beam from our own eye before trying to remove the plank from our neighbors. New school tells us to stay in our lane. Old folks simply told us to mind our own business. Let me tell you how I learned to do just that.
I had an excellent teacher in learning this lesson. Who was my teacher, you ask? It was none other than my mother. And she honestly had no idea she even taught me. But she did. Allow me to paint the story for you. It was 2009, about eight months after my dad passed away. My mom had decided that she was ready to date. I, on the other hand, didn’t agree. Now let’s look at what I said. I didn’t agree with her choice. Just who did I think I was? Well, at the time I thought I was a supportive and loving daughter who cared about my mom and only wanted the best for her. I thought it was a bit much to expect that a woman who’d lost her husband of 30 years (the man she’d been with from 16 years of age to 50) was ready to go out and date. I thought it was even more than a bit much when considering that said woman hadn’t been on a first date since 1976. I thought it was a bit much to expect that she’d be wholly healed and done with her grief in a way that would allow her to forge a new relationship. And I thought the loving thing to do was to simply tell her so. And I didn’t think I said it an overbearing way. I thought I said it in a “Mom I love you and I only want the best for you” kind of way. But the reality was that she didn’t ask me. To be frank, no one asked me. I took it upon myself to decide that I needed to intervene on her behalf. And I thought I was right. Man, if you’d seen some of these guys! She had no business dating any of them. That’s what I told myself. And for me, it wasn’t so much that I felt that none of them could hold a candle to my dad. It was that I instinctively felt that none of them were interested in my mother as a woman. I felt that they were all just happy to say they were dating “Bernie Mac’s wife.” I knew that feeling all too well. After all, I knew how to navigate those murky waters. I knew what it felt like to have the task of making friends and date all while being “Bernie Mac’s daughter.” So I was helping my mother avoid some of the pitfalls I’d found myself in. Or so I thought.
Again, I had benevolent intentions. The execution though? Not so much. I wasn’t actually being benevolent. I was actually being quite dismissive of my mother and her right to choose. She had a right to live her life the way she felt. She had every right to grieve in the way she needed. She had a right to go out with anyone she wanted. She was 50 years old for goodness’ sake! She wasn’t a child who needed me to hold her hand. All she needed was support. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that support was enough action. I didn’t realize that support didn’t require me to insert myself in her life. Now, I’d love to tell you that I made these realizations shortly after I said something, but I cannot. No, I rode the short bus on this lesson. It took me quite a while to get to the memo. What pushed me to finally get it, you ask? It took me feeling as if my life had completely fallen apart and dissecting everything about it to realize that everything I was upset over had NOTHING to do with me! It was several months later at this point. I’d deteriorated mentally, physically, and emotionally. My entire body was broken out in a horrid rash. I thought it was simply a bad case of my eczema until I went to the dermatologist and learned that it was another skin condition caused by stress. I couldn’t sleep. I was averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep anything down. I went to my counselor and told her what was going on and she asked me a very important question. She simply asked, “What does any of this have to do with you?” *Gasp* How could she dare ask me that? Couldn’t she see that it had everything to do with me? “She’s my mother!” I answered incredulously. She looked at me and said, “Yes, we know that. And she’s your mother whether she’s married to your dad, dating a new guy, or perpetually single. This is her life. So what does her dating have to do with you?” I opened my mouth to answer, but I had nothing. So I closed my mouth and just sat there. She was correct. The truth was that it didn’t have anything to do with me. But I think I made it about me because that was safer and easier than dealing with my own life. The truth was that I wasn’t doing so well with my dad’s passing. I was devastated and I didn’t know I was devastated. I knew I was out of it. But I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew that I felt low and wanted to feel better. To top it off, my divorce was finalized three months after my dad passed. And while I felt I did the right thing by divorcing my ex husband, I still felt a sense of sadness. I still needed to grieve. I needed to grieve not so much what was, but the release of all the unfulfilled hope of what could have been. As if that wasn’t enough, my relationship with my mom had changed. A distance grew between us–one that wasn’t related to my insertion in her business. I honestly think maybe I inserted myself as a means to bridge the gap. Whatever my reasons, it didn’t change the fact that I was so busy minding my mother’s business that I was failing myself miserably.
So then judgment kicked in. I was upset with myself because I should have known better. After all, how many fights had I participated in with my father because he didn’t allow me the freedom to choose–even when I was grown and out of the house. I would often tell him that while I understood his intentions; he still needed to back off. Of course, he wouldn’t. Now years later, he was gone and I was finding myself committing his cardinal sins! But that was judgment. And judgment kept me stuck. I couldn’t get past it. After all, this was different and I was nothing like him because I was right and he wasn’t. But it didn’t matter how I tried to spin it because the more I spun, the more I realized that I was acting and sounding just like my dad. AAaaaaahhhh!
And so, upon realizing that I was acting like my father and that I was running away from my own trouble–also the fact that I was extremely dry and itchy and the steroid cream the dermatologist prescribed was NOT cutting it–prompted me to get out of my mother’s lap in her driver’s seat, in her car, in her lane, on her highway, on her route, in her city, on the way to her destination. Instead, I opened the driver’s side door of my own car, sat behind the wheel, and drove off at a very cautiously slow 5 mph. Whew! I was scared out of my mind, but I kept driving. Slowly but surely, my scenery changed because I was on my own route–one that had nothing to do with my mom’s. And that’s how I learned to mind my own business.
While I will offer my opinion to my loved ones when asked, I won’t insert myself in their lives. I only speak when prompted. Furthermore, I’m done once I’ve said my peace. I don’t entangle myself in their affairs. Yay for healthy boundaries! It took some practice, but now it’s almost effortless, and I think my relationships are the better for it.
It’s Friday! Go Friday! Go Friday! Go Friday! That just sounds like a fun day. Say it with me . . . Friday! Doesn’t it just sound like it should contain fun? I think so. Anyway, I had a topic I wanted to cover, but this issue of fear kept coming up. So many people were talking to me about their fear and how they can’t do the thing they wish because of it. There is this mindset that in order to move, one must fear get over their fear. That is so not true. I’ve talked about fear before, in October. But today, I want to go a little more in depth.
There exists this idea that perfect conditions must exist before we can do that next level thing we wish to do. The reality is that there is never any set of perfect conditions that will arise. And waiting around for those conditions will only keep us from going where we want and need to be. I’ve wanted to write and share my story for years with others. However, fear of failure–rejection and things simply not turning out the way I want–kept me from doing so. And the truth is, those things really aren’t failure. But I’ll address that at a later time. But I was afraid, so I averted the call to do so. But averting the call didn’t cancel the call. It just continued to call, only louder and stronger. And if I hadn’t answered, neither myself nor anyone I’ve possibly helped would have gotten what we needed from my sharing. And I don’t say that to puff myself up. No. That knowledge actually humbles me quite a bit. Watch the video for more of what I have to say about it.
There was a time in my life when I could be indecisive. Hey, I can freely admit this. Having several options before me seemed to paralyze me–rendering me incapable of making a decision. I would feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. I would hem. And when I was done hemming, I would haw. When that was done, I probably hemmed again. I would do this until I spun myself into a frenzy. I’m someone who tends to look at every encounter and moment as one that is capable of teaching me something. So when looking at the decisions before me, I consider all the angles. On the one hand, I find it helpful. But that other hand? On that bad boy, it causes complications. Excessive analysis leads to paralysis. At some point, in the words of Lil Jon, you’ve just got to ” . . . get out of your mind,” and DO something. Therein lied the rub for me. As I’ve said, I’m someone who believes that any encounter or thing (however pointless it may appear) has the ability to teach me something. However, I didn’t imagine that I’d receive a pivotal Aha! moment while sitting at Chili’s with my daughter.
Allow me to go Sophia from Golden Girls on you for a moment. Picture it. Homewood, IL, a small south suburb of Chicago. There’s a shopping center, and at the end of that shopping center, there’s a Chili’s restaurant. My daughter and I sat at the second booth from the entrance. We sat down and I began to peruse the menu. I immediately became overwhelmed by all the choices. I stared at the menu for minutes, unable to decide what I wanted to eat. When our server arrived to take our order, I asked for a few more minutes because I was not quite ready to make a choice. Our server returned minutes later, and I was still unable to decide. He returned a second time, and I found myself still in the throes of making a decision. Finally, my server asked, “May I ask what are your top two choices?” I told him, to which he gave me his recommendation. He then added, “If you don’t like it, we can always change it and get you something else that you’ll like.” Woah! Mind. Blown. You mean to tell me that I can actually change my mind? I do not have to chain myself to one choice. Shut the front door! And while you’re at it, close the back one and all the windows too!
Now I know this was a truly simply example. But it got me to thinking. How many other times in my life have I either stalled on making a choice, or simply failed to make a choice; thereby simply choosing to go on default mode? I’ve done it more times than I actually care to remember. And I’ve done it in some major moments in my life. I realized my marriage was no longer serving me. But I was too afraid to make the choice to walk away, so I stayed far longer than I needed and suffered far longer than I needed (causing my ex husband to suffer as well) because I was too afraid to make a choice. I needed to take legal action years ago against someone very close to me, but I couldn’t make the choice. I agonized over it and suffered over the choice that I couldn’t make. I’ve had friendships that I realized no longer served me. But instead of choosing to walk away, I stayed in those relationships; continuing to get annoyed by the people for being exactly who they’ve always been. And I did it simply because I couldn’t bring myself to make a choice.
In each case, I felt as if I had no choice. What I failed to recognize was that there was always a choice. I may not have liked my options, but there were options all the same. I had a tendency to put the weight of the world upon my shoulders if I made a choice. You know, like the world would somehow stop spinning on its axis simply because I chose to walk away from a toxic relationship, or chose to stay home instead of cashing in on an invitation. Or I would tell myself that I was ruining lives. You know, like I was really THAT powerful. Why was I causing myself so much difficulty over a seemingly simple task?
As if this revelation wasn’t enough, I found myself sitting in my counselor’s office, lamenting over something (I can’t even remember now. See, that’s how important it was!) I was going on and on, and she looked at me with such empathy and said, “Well, Je’Niece, try it out and see what happens. If you don’t like it, you can always get off the ride.” WOAH! There it was again. I can actually make a choice, and then if I don’t like the choice, I can make another choice! Are you kidding me? I felt that was confirmation of the lesson. I’d heard it twice in one week. There was no need to try to deny it. I needed to get comfortable with making choices in my life and stop living on default (which in itself is a choice, but I didn’t realize that).
I know at some points in my life, I acted upon default simply because I didn’t feel that I had the right to make the choice. I would feel guilty for feeling the way that I did, because again, I somehow had the idea that I didn’t have the right to feel whatever I was feeling. Perhaps my inability to make a choice was in part due to my failure to break away from my conditioning. I mean, we’re not taught that we can actually change our minds. At least I wasn’t. I can remember being told on numerous occasions how I had no right to change my mind; AND if there was any mind changing going on, it would be done for me. So is there really any wonder as to why I was incapable of making my own decisions as an adult?
But this isn’t a lamentation about my upbringing. No, this is a revelatory moment. One simple encounter caused me to recognize and break a pattern I’d been engaging in for the greater part of my life. Glory! I’m free! Yay me! But, and this is a pretty big but–but I like big buts *cue Sir-Mix-A-Lot* It’s a daily practice. And it can be so easy to shift into default mode. But each time I’m tempted to go on default, I remind myself that I am the most powerful person in my life. I remind myself that I am the only one who gets a say in how my life looks and feels. And then I choose. Even if I don’t like my options, I choose. And I choose because to do anything else is me failing to show up for myself. And I’ve come too far to be a no-show in my life.