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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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Relationships

Who Told You Love is in Limited Supply? And Other Such Fallacies

Happy Friday!  I’ve had quite an interesting relationship with Love throughout my life. I’m convinced that when I signed up for this life I did so deciding that Love would be my focus, as Run DMC once belted, “it’s tricky.”  I’m happy to say that I’ve had a come-to-Jesus moment with Love and I’m happy to say that I’ve released quite a few fallacies I once held regarding Love.  It’s interesting to see how much more simple things have become for me.  What about you?  What fallacies about Love have you been holding onto?  Are you finally ready to let them go.

 

It’s Just the Fullness of You

Happy Friday!  We are now in the midst of the holiday season.  Contrary to the myth, depression and suicide are not on the rise during this time. However, that doesn’t mean that loneliness, sadness, and strife don’t exist during this time.  Sometimes I think it gets highlighted more because this is a time that is supposed to be all about gathering with loved ones.

And therein lies something about the way we connect with one another.  We tend to let a day hold more significance for our relationships than we do the cumulative moments.  We tend to get irritated with our loved one–and people in general–just for being human. We expect them to think and act the way we would. But we forget that they are not us and they do not have the same life experiences and world view as we.  I think it’s time for us to have fuller, deeper, more rich connections with ourselves and one another. But in order to do that, we have to get real with ourselves and with one another about what really happens when we don’t like something.  That means we can’t just react or lash out. We have to be mature–even when we don’t want to.  I think we should give it a try. What have we really got to lose?  Glad you asked! Truthfully, not a doggone thing.

What I’ll Tell My Daughter About Love

When I was of what my dad considered an appropriate age, he began talking to me about what to look for in men.  He gave me a lot of advice:  Look at his nails and hands, pay attention to his oral hygiene, make sure I don’t have to depend on him for anything.  He also advised me that when I was ready to make a commitment to a man to make sure that I liked him.  He warned me that “love” or the feeling of love at least can come and go, but liking the person would ensure that I’d be more likely to work on the relationship as people tend to be more kind to those they like.

Well, The Fizzle isn’t actually of dating age just yet. She’s only 10.  However, she is of age where she is able to bear witness to relationships and she has already formed the foundations of what she’ll carry with her when she forges down that road.  Of course there are more things I will tell her about romantic relationships based on what I’ve learned over the years.

  1. I’ll add a caveat to her grandfather’s advice of making sure to like the person.  I’d say pay attention to what liking someone means.  Don’t settle for someone you find likeable because there is a distinct difference between finding one likeable vs. liking said person.  A likeable person is one who you like well enough but not entirely. You have a list of a few traits you like about them but you have an equally long list, or longer, of all the things you don’t really like. But instead of being honest about the things you don’t like, you sweep them under the rug and tell yourself you can live with them.  Well he makes me laugh. I like how he dressesHe’s really good with kids. Or some other such trait.  Instead, ask yourself: Do I truly like this man as a person?  If the answer is no, then Simon Cowell him.
  2. Choose someone whose values are in agreement with yours.  So many people look for surface agreements. We love the same movies. We have the same taste in music. We both love pizza. Sure those things are wonderful, but they aren’t necessary.  What you want is someone whose view of the world is in alignment with your own.  You want someone whose values are compatible with yours and that takes more than having the same tastes in food or music.
  3. Instead of focusing on how much you agree, pay more attention to how well you disagree.  So many place a high emphasis on how many things they can agree upon.  While agreeing is great, differences are inevitable. You’re not going to ever live in the world by yourself. Choose someone with whom you can agreeably disagree with and who can do the same with you. That will be a better measure of how well you can get along than agreeing upon things.
  4. Ask yourself, if this person never changes can I accept him?  If this person never changes can I accept him? And you have to ask yourself these questions because when you sign up for a relationship, you sign up to be with the person as they are.  That means you can’t sign up based on the potential of who you think he may become. There may be things you want to change about him, but you have to be able to accept him as he is because he’s not going to change for you.  He’s going to be exactly who he is.  However, at the same time, we are constantly evolving as human beings.  So you have to be prepared for the change you either wanted or didn’t want.  Sometimes we ask for things and we find ourselves ill-prepared for them once we receive them.  You may find that you wanted your mate to become someone only to find you don’t like what he’s become once he actualizes that.  Or he may actualize into someone else that you weren’t expecting and you may find you don’t like it.  Either way, you have to make space for him to be who he is and to become who he will become.
  5. When considering attraction, don’t make a snap decision. So many people base attraction solely on the first impression of physical looks.  That’s such a tiny part of attraction.  Attraction wanes or increases the more time you spend with someone. You can meet someone who you deem to be a 10 based on his looks, only to find that he’s a 5 or less in every other area.  On the other hand, a modest looking gentleman can easily become a 10 if he has other qualities you find attractive.  Also, don’t listen to your friends or others about his attractiveness.  You are the only one who has to find him attractive.
  6. Don’t go for the “good” guy.  So many pass themselves off as good because they get good grades, make good money, or dress nicely.  Good is an arbitrary term. You have to get specific about what good means to you.  Women settle constantly for the good guy without getting specific about what that means.  Does it mean kind, compassionate, intelligent, hard-working, assertive, etc.  Do you want someone good with kids? Good with explaining things you don’t understand?  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Also, understand that whatever it is you want him to possess, it needs to be compatible with you.  You both must complement one another.
  7. This should be an add-on to number 6. Please, please, please don’t go for the nice guy!  Whatever you do, avoid getting with a man simply because he’s nice.  So many people place a high emphasis on being nice.  But don’t confuse nice for kind.  Nice isn’t actually admirable.  It isn’t authentic. Nice is what people do so that others think well of them.  Nice guys are the ones who are insecure and do things to seek approval from others.  The nice guy is the guy who does things he really doesn’t want to do and later resents you for it. Instead, seek out the kind guy.  The kind guy is the one who is confident in who he is and gives of himself because it’s simply in his nature. He respects himself and others and expects to be respected in return.  He doesn’t need you to make him feel better about himself.  Yeah, go for that guy. But make sure you’re that kind woman first so that you’re not the nice girl he fell for.
  8. Be clear about your expectations. And your wants. Don’t hold back. At all!  Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you want from your mate or the relationship.  That way, the person can tell you yay or nay on whether or not they can deliver or if they’re willing to.  And you are then free to decide how you’d like to proceed from there.
  9. Don’t take it personal when a person can’t or is unwilling to give you what you want. Sometimes people love and give the best they have but their best isn’t good enough for us.  You absolutely get to say what’s good enough for you. But you don’t get to assess the true nature of the person’s heart for you.  There’s a lot of advice that says when someone loves you they’ll do whatever it takes to be what you want/need. That sounds wonderful, but it’s so untrue.  We meet people at different stages of their lives and sometimes no matter how much someone loves you, they just may not be ready or capable to give you what you want/need. Doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have though.  It also doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
  10. No matter what happens in the relationship, don’t ever be ashamed or guilty for being yourself, for caring about the person or for showing how much you cared. Oftentimes, when a relationship ends, or when someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, or when someone is unable/unwilling to give us what we need/want, there is an emphasis of blame.  People tend to tell the hurt person it was their fault for choosing that person or that the hurt person should not have done all the wonderful things they did in the relationship.  That’s a tit-for-tat mentality that is a relationship killer.  Please know that you never ever have to feel any shame for loving someone with all you have and showing them that.  You’re only responsible for you.  What they do with your love is on them.

And of course, I’ll tell her to look at his nails and his teeth too cause her grandfather was on to something with that. But again, she’s only 10.  I’m sure there’s going to be more to come.  Now that I look at this list, I think I need to remind myself of these things.  What will you tell your children, or friends, or yourself for that matter about love?

Acceptance is the Way

I actually had no intentions of writing about this ever.  But for some reason, this issue kept showing up in conversations with others who were struggling with something similar and I felt the nudging to share.  I’ve said before that I’m a firm believer that we are not meant to hold our lessons in. We bring healing when we give our voices to share with one another.  We bring healing to others and ourselves.  I believe this unpleasant moment in my life brought forth some healing for me.  It wasn’t actually painful either. However, it was surely an Aha moment.

I have been divorced for 9 years.  I’ve said before how in spite of the trials of that relationship, my ex-husband has served as one of my greatest teachers because I’ve learned a lot about myself.  He didn’t fail to teach me yet again.  During the summer, we had a significant blow up that resulted in me having to call my cousin who happens to be a Seargeant for CPD and also me making the decision that it is best that he and I no longer speak.  It’s not something I’ve ever wanted. I actually hoped that by this point we’d have transitioned into co-parenting bliss. You know, we get along so well cause we’re actually friends.  Unfortunately, that is not the case and I doubt it ever will be.  Good thing for me is that I’d have been devastated if this had happened years ago. But as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher (and the lesson and test) appears.  And so did the test appear, hand delivered by the teacher, my ex-husband, and I was ready so I was not devastated.  I instead accepted it as it is.

While I won’t go into specifics, I will say that his behavior was unacceptable. From my point of view, it was a simple miscommunication.  However, judging from my ex’s behavior, it was about more than the particular miscommunication.  I probably will never know the full reason(s) behind it, nor do I need to.  Suffice it to say that he became aggressive–unnecessarily and unacceptably so.  He did so in front of our daughter and his other children.  It’s important to note that my point of this blog isn’t actually about him or his behavior. This is actually about me and what I took away from that.  I could easily point my finger at him and say he is horrible and call him names. But he’s not.  He’s just a mere man, going through life just as I am. His path is full of lessons for him just as mine is filled with my own lessons.  We have served our purposes in one another’s life and created a beautiful soul in the process. We have gotten all that we needed from one another and our time has come to an end.

Let me say that I’m one of those people who has no problem being friends with exes. I have actually never understood why one wouldn’t want to remain friends with an ex–bar there is no abuse or severe mistreatment.  I’ve always been of the belief that if you were a huge part of my life, I can’t understand why you can’t remain in a different capacity.  Suffice it to say that I don’t let go nearly as often as I should.  But that logic stayed with me through my divorce. As far as I was concerned, I had no major beef with my ex husband other than the fact that he was my husband. Once he ceased to be my husband, I was cool.  But that was selfish on my part because I didn’t give space for him to feel whatever he feels. Now he has never actually said it in words, but I fully believe the man hates me. And you know what? That’s ok.  Problem is, I wasn’t giving him the space for that. In my mind, we are parents and we are tied together for life (and we actually are). Since we are, we may as well be friends. But he doesn’t want to be my friend. I’m not even sure he actually wants to co-parent with me. And again, that’s ok.

Over the years, I have done what I thought I could to mend the bridge between us. I would offer olive branches. I would ask for talks to get to the bottom of things and clear the air.  He would have a list of grievances and even though I didn’t agree, I would agree with him to make peace. My logic was that he needed the win and if I gave it to him we would be that much closer to getting along.  Well, I was wrong. The moment I found myself standing in his doorway 9 years after our divorce having to walk away from his aggression is the moment I finally accepted that it just is not meant to be.  That’s when it hit me.  Aha! It took me 9 years to finally let our relationship go–even though I knew before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding that we were not a good fit.  And now it has taken me 9 years to fully accept that we are not and will not be friends or cordial co-parents.  And that’s ok.  Let me say  now that it will not take me another 9 years to get any other memo from this dead relationship. Lesson is learned.

Honestly, I could have saved myself the trouble if I’d accepted this years ago. Now please let me be clear. I am in no way assuming responsibility for his behavior on that night in July.  I’m taking responsibility for my role in not accepting things as they were prior to that night.  And to be honest, it has always been about me and not him.  I struggled greatly with choosing to end our marriage–even though I knew it was the best thing for us.  We just did not fit.  There was a big part of me who felt like a failure.  I failed at holding my marriage together.  Actually, I felt like a failure before that because I chose to marry a man whom I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold down a marriage with for long.  So as far as I was concerned, the least I could do was successfully co-parent with him.  It was bad enough our daughter wouldn’t be from a two-parent household. I owed it to her to show her parents who were mature enough to get along and work together.  I was especially charged about this because when I was growing up I saw my parents argue frequently over two things: money and me.  They disagreed often about the best course for me and I vowed I would never have that problem.  We’ve all heard about saying never, right?  In my mind, the least I could do is get the co-parenting right.  It was not acceptable to fail at both marriage and co-parenting. I wasn’t making space for the fact that doing what was best for everyone involved–including (and especially) myself isn’t actually a fail.

The other thing I struggled with is accepting that my ex does not like me. To be honest, I always felt like he didn’t like me–even during our marriage.  But that’s something that I hoped would change after our divorce and it hasn’t.  I actually think it has intensified.  There are people in life with whom you disagree regarding values and views on life, but you find you still like them.  There are those with whom you disagree and you don’t necessarily like them, but you do find them tolerable.  And then there are those with whom disagree and what’s more, you just cannot stand them. Their views and who they are just gets on your nerves and you do not like them. I believe I fall in that final category with my ex.  Who I am and my way of being bothers him.  The fact that I bother him so much has bothered me.  Can you say co-dependency? I was like a 6 year-old who just kept offering toys to get him to be my friend.  And it never worked.  And I never understood, nor would accept that it wouldn’t work.   My ex and I are fundamentally different and that’s ok. But I had to learn how to  allow it to be ok that we will not get along because of that.  But here’s what I finally get.  Because we are so fundamentally different, my ex sees me through a lens that is veiled by his own perceptions.  He sees a completely inaccurate intent from me when I do things.  No matter how many times I explain my logic and point of view, he sees what he sees and there is no changing his mind. That bothered me a lot.  It finally got to a point where I had to ask myself why it bothers me so much.  The truth is that it bothered me because on some level I still cared what he thought of me–not necessarily as a person, but as co-parents.  I told him when we divorced that I would never intentionally stand in the way of his relationship with our daughter and I meant that.  I have done my best over the course of our daughter’s life to uphold that bargain. I take that seriously. Our daughter is entitled and deserves to have a relationship with her father, no matter what is going on between us. So it bothered me to know that he sees me as intentionally doing things to undermine or disrespect that.  I had to come to accept that he is just one of those people who will never see me as I am.  And that’s ok.  He doesn’t get me. He never did.  But what’s more important is that I understand that how he sees me is not the truth of who I am.  It may be his truth.  But again, his truth is veiled by his experiences and his being and in no way does it dictate the truth to who I am.  And I can’t say enough that this is ok.

The other thing that I realized is that I just had to let go of control.  I’m a pretty laid back person and don’t think of myself as a control freak. However, in some ways, my inability to accept things was a form of me trying to control the outcome.  I’m not sure how long I was willing to go on this crazy ride with my ex, but I know I have gone for far too long and I was willing to do it to make sure that I got the picture that I wanted.  The picture consisted of peace and harmony. After all, wasn’t that in the best interest of our child? I was unwilling to accept that the peace and harmony would come from me letting things go. It has been several months now since that night and I haven’t spoken to my ex since. Frankly, it has been quite peaceful ever since. I can’t speak for him, but I’m willing to bet the same has been true for him.  I certainly hope it is.  And who knows? Maybe now that I’ve stopped fighting against things, some day in the distant future we’ll evolve into the picture I held for so long.  Or maybe not.  Either way, it’s ok.

If there is anyone out there going through turmoil in your divorce or post-divorce relationship, I encourage you to accept things as they are. Release whatever picture you have in your head of how things should or could be.   And for the love of all that is sacred, please don’t take anything personal!  You are reacting from your stuff just as your ex is reacting from their own stuff.  No one is actually right or wrong.  Instead, you are both doing the best you can–at least I hope you are.  I’m not saying you have to like it because you don’t.  But I do believe accepting things will bring you so much closer to peace.  I know it has for me.

I’m Not Your Superwoman! Hell, I’m Not Even My Own!

Happy Friday to you! Today is a wonderful day and would you like to know why? Well, it’s because you’re here. I become more convinced that there really are no coincidences the longer I live. So it’s no coincidence that you exist at this moment. It’s no coincidence that you happened upon my blog. Even if we can’t connect the dots as to the why’s behind it all, we can rest assured that there is a why. This past week was good for me because I was able to offer support to quite a few of the beloved women in my life. I was able to offer the support they needed because I have walked the path they now found themselves stumbling over. Let me just tell you, it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable enough with myself to share as openly as I now do. And I do it because I know what distress, pain, heartache, failure, and all the other yucky stuff of life feels like. If I can help at least one by offering support, encouragement, or just a glimpse of what it looks like to stand in the midst of it, let alone overcome, it is well with my soul. Today’s video was inspired by so many of the beautiful women I know and love and to the individuals who love them. May you all find peace, joy, and Soul! Wait, that’s the Soul Train, but hey, all aboard! Toot! Toot!

To The Finish Line

Salutations! Naw, that doesn’t sound happy enough. Hey! I’m sending all my good vibes your way because I appreciate you so much for joining me here on this space. Today is good. It’s cold in Chicago, but the sun is out. So I’m taking my silver lining. Today’s video was inspired by a conversation I was having with one of my besties. She and I are so in sync we actually activate one another. We’re like the Wonder Twins . . . Activate! So whenever I’m thinking about something, it tends to come up in our conversations and I take that as confirmation that I’m on the right track. We were talking about life and relationships and how we mere mortals have such difficulty with the endings of a relationship. We all know they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But something about that end gets to us. We just don’t like it. But the reality is, every relationship we create in our lives won’t be one that we ride all the way to our physical death. And I’m not speaking of merely romantic relationships. What is it about the end of things that make us so uncomfortable? And we needn’t fret. No we need not. Because the end usually signifies the beginning of something else. Hmmm . . . let’s ponder that for a minute, shall we?

Daddy’s Little Girl

People love to ask me what it was like growing up with Bernie Mac as my father. I still don’t really know how to answer that question. It’s all that I know. He was Daddy. And while his story seems quite extraordinary to some, life with him seemed quite ordinary to me. I will say that it wasn’t anywhere near as hilarious as others seem to think it was. Don’t get me wrong. We laughed a lot. I mean, he was just a naturally funny guy and he had a great sense of humor. He passed it along. However, he took his responsibility as a father very seriously. And as his daughter, I can tell you that fatherhood, as far as he was concerned, was no laughing matter.

I tell people often that my father and I were soul mates. I know that the popular idea of soul mates lies in the romantic. However, I’ve always believed that a soul mate is that person whose connection with you is unparalleled. Your soul mate is the person (or persons) who are there to reflect you in your truest essence. They challenge you in the most life changing ways. That was my father for me, and I him. We were mirror images of one another. While I wouldn’t admit it when he was alive, I proudly say today that we knew and understood one another better than anyone. There were things we just “got” about one another. The flip side to that is that we also had the super power of being able to drive the other crazy.

People ask, “What do you miss most about your dad?” It makes me laugh now, but the truth is, I miss the way he got on my nerves. And he did get on my nerves. About 90% of the 100 billion estimated ones I have in my human body! Hearing that may sound odd to you, but it’s a comforting truth for me. Oddly enough, it’s not the tender moments I miss most. I miss his idiosynchrasies, his bad habits. I miss the little picadillos that made him Daddy.

I found one of my old journals that I kept as a child. I had to have been about 10 or 11 years old when I wrote in the journal. Almost every entry is about how much he got on my nerves and how I will never, ever, ever be like him. Now, those who know me well can appreciate the humor of this. I am like my father. Always have been. In fact, I think I was the last person in my life to recognize it! I’ve known one of my best friend since we were 4 years old. We’ve never had an argument. We were about 14 the one time we came close to blows, and it was because she told me that I was like my father.

This is yet another thing I wouldn’t admit because a large part of me felt like he was larger than life. My dad was a superhero in my eyes. He was able to do the impossible. Hey, he took us from true rags to riches, so why wouldn’t I believe that? I never believed I had that ability. But, I also wouldn’t let him know that. No, I would say the opposite of whatever he said. If he said “Up,” I went down. If he said, “It’s going to rain,” I said “I see nothing but sunshine.” He was intuitive and very strong with his intuition. So he was right a lot. I mean a lot, a lot. He could tell you what you would do before you even thought about the act. And I’m not ashamed to tell you that I just got tired of him being right all the time. So yep, I was contrary on purpose just to prove him wrong. You probably don’t need me to tell you that it didn’t work out very well for me.

Again, these are things that I laugh about now. But the truth is, as much as I resisted my true self (which is so much like my dad), I’m appreciative of it now. I like that we are so much alike. I think my father was a wonderful human being and I’m proud to say that I know him. So here’s a brief list of some of the traits that we have in common.

We’re both extremely stubborn. I mean for real, for real. We will hold our stance forever. You’ll get tired before we do.

We’re both humanitarians and care takers. We’re the one in our circle who takes care of everyone. The unfortunate thing is that we both do so to the detriment of our own selves because we get so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves.

We both have a very, ahem . . . colorful . . . vocabulary. Now this one is really funny to me because I was timid about cursing until he died. Once he did, it was as if a part of him fused into my soul and brought his vocabulary stash with it!

We’re both natural leaders. We’re not interested in following a crowd. In fact, we’re more inclined to intentionally go in the opposite direction of everyone else.

We’re both very sensitive. This may shock some, but it is indeed true that the MacMan was very sensitive. He cared a lot about what others thought of him. He just had a great poker face to throw you off the scent of his sensitivity. I, on the other hand, never developed the poker face. Yet, I am just as sensitive–if not even more. Now, we’ll still go on to do whatever we want and leave you feeling like we don’t care, but we do.

I miss my dad. I miss him every single moment of every day. For so long I expected this almost magic day to arrive where I would be over his passing. I finally realized that there is no such day. You never get over it. You just get through it. I can honestly say that I’m through the grief, but I still miss him. I like thinking of him fondly. And I don’t wish to martyr him. Yes he was a great man. But he was also flawed. But the beautiful thing about maturity is that you learn to appreciate the people in your life for who they are instead of who you wish they were. And I appreciate my dad so much for who he is and was. It is said that children go through three stages when it comes to their view of their parents. They begin by idolizing their parents. I am no exception. I idolized my dad. I was in love with him. I idolized him so much that I pitied any man who wasn’t like him. I actually thought that any man who didn’t physically resemble him had some type of deformity. My grandfather’s and my father’s friends were the only exceptions.

It’s said after idolization, children then judge their parents. I can admit that I did judge my father. I judged him for things he did and things he didn’t do. For a long time I felt that he was too hard on me. I felt that he didn’t give me everything I needed from him. It would take me maturing and learning to see him as a man, apart from being just my dad to understand that he did the best he could. He did his best to instill in me the values he believed would help me succeed in life. He didn’t know how to be soft. He only knew how to be hard–even his soft was hard. But it was well intentioned. It was covered with love. And I appreciate that.

People ask me am I proud of my dad. I understand that for many who ask, their question is rooted in his celebrity. The truth is yes, I am quite proud of my dad. But not necessarily because of his fame. I’m proud that my father, without having his father in his life, chose to honor his actions and marry my pregnant mother at the tender age of 19. I’m proud that he remained in our home, leading us as best as he could. I’m proud that he had the courage to dare to dream (a huge dream). But more than just dream, he took the steps to make his dream come true–in spite of the many naysayers. I’m proud that at the height of his celebrity, he held fast to his values and never allowed anyone or anything to deter him from that path. I’m proud that while he may not have been able to soften up for me, he was able to give me everything he had. So I guess that means I’m in the final stage, which is acceptance. I’m proud to say he didn’t have to die for me to reach that stage. I was there long before.

How I Learned to Mind My Own Business

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.

 

I Always Fall For . . . Your Potential

I’ve heard it said before that a mistake that many people make when they fall in love is that they fall in love with the potential of who the person could be rather than fall in love with who the person actually is. Well, to an extent, I agree. I agree that people look to another’s potential as a marker for pursuing and remaining in a relationship. However, I don’t believe that people fall in love with, or, are in love with potential. I say this because potential doesn’t exist. Potential isn’t real. Potential is some made up entity you have created with your imagination to create the perfect person for you. So in essence, when one has fallen in love with potential, one has failed to actually fall in love with the person. You’ve simply decided that your created image is better than the reality.

I have been guilty of this on occasion. I married my ex husband totally ignoring the reality of who he was. I knew who he was and what he was about. I knew that he wasn’t who I wanted. However, I believed in this version of him that I created in my head. And I hoped like hell that one day soon he would grow to meet that image. I found myself pissed 9 years later, when he was no more that man than he had been on the day we met. I felt betrayed. Now, on the one hand, I can say that he did try for a time to pretend to be that man. But as we all know, pretending only goes so far. And even with his efforts, I still saw through the veneer. Yet I chose to look beyond what I saw and hold tight to my image. Once I divorced him, I grieved. Funny thing is that I never grieved the end of our marriage. I celebrated that. I considered that among one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. No, I grieved for the man I never met. The man he never was, but whom I always hoped he would become.  And none of that was his fault.  He was who he was.  He was clear on that even through his consistently inconsistent behavior. It was I who failed to accept him at face value.  And while I may not like the sound of it, I failed to accept it simply because I liked my version of him better.

Several years after my divorce, I partnered briefly with a man who I’d known back in high school. Ours was a most unexpected coupling. I’d never expected to fall in love—and definitely not with him. He was the last man I would have ever considered as a romantic partner. The thing is, he was probably one of the last men I should have ever partnered with. He was a recent widower. I knew he wasn’t ready for a new relationship. To add even more fuel to this already lit fire, he was incredibly insecure. He was the kind of guy who pretended to be a “nice” guy, but deep down he wasn’t. So he would say things that I intuitively felt were meant to break my self-esteem. I saw that, but I wouldn’t accept it. Why? Because I was so focused on the potential of what could be. I told myself that once he healed, things would be great. He was just hurting and needed some compassion and love. Well, I could have given compassion and love. I just could have (and probably should have) given it from a distance. But I was so busy ignoring who he was because I preferred the image of who he could be.

For a time, I fell into the woe is me trap. Why can’t I find a good man? What’s wrong with me? But I had to do what my father would have told me to do; which is to take a good, long look at myself in the mirror. And so I did. I recognized that I failed to accept each man as he was.  I have a good heart. I don’t say that in a bragging manner. I just do. And my good heart sees beneath the surface in everyone. I see the good in everyone. I can’t fathom another person being a terrible. After all, no one person is completely good, nor completely bad. Even when I intuitively sense something is off with a person—and believe me, I do, as my intuition is very strong—I ignore it. I choose to create a better version in my head and go with my creation. It’s nicer. Neater. Better. I’m the type of person who you can stab directly in the heart (literally), and with my dying breath I’ll tell you how it’s ok because deep down I know you didn’t mean to do it because you really are a good person. Extreme examples aside, the only thing I have ever done when I’ve chosen to do that is cause myself issues. Now, I am able to say that I appreciate both men for the soul lessons they provided me. But I recognize that I could have saved myself so much heartache had I given up the false hope of potential. I also recognize that my choice to love their potential says much more about me than it does either man.

When one chooses to remain with another simply because of potential, one is failing to see, accept, and subsequently choose the person as they are and where they are in the present. The man has no job? That’s ok. He can get one. We’ll send him to ICDC College and get him a job. My baby gon’ get it together. Well that’s love from a parenting aspect, and not from a partner aspect. Let me put it to you like this. I have the potential to be a killer or a billionaire. At the moment, I am neither. To choose to either avoid or get in a relationship with me based on either sounds, well kind of dumb, right? Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that it’s the same thing for potential. I know. I had to break it down for myself too.

It can seem tricky because on the one hand, everyone has the potential for growth, and a person’s status in life today is not necessarily indicative of where their path may lead. However, I think there is a bit of a marker, and it’s pretty simple. It’s about vision. Ask yourself, does the person have a vision for him or herself?  Once you ask and answer that, go a little deeper. If he or she has a vision, what is the vision? Now don’t stop there. You’ve got to go even deeper.  Now you need to ask if they have created goals AND taken steps to actualize those goals to create their vision? Now notice that I didn’t say ask what your vision is for that person. I didn’t say ask that because your vision for someone else does not matter. You can’t love, hang on to, or encourage another enough to maximize their potential. That person has to want it and do the work for him or herself. If they don’t, then there is nothing you can do for them. We’ve heard that you can lead a horse to pasture, but you can’t make him drink. Well the same is true for human beings. We can influence, encourage, and desire things for others. But we can’t do the heavy lifting for them. You can absolutely serve as another’s muse–their catalyst that sparks the desire for change.  It’s happened before, and it will happen again.  Marie-Thérèse Walter served as Pablo Picasso’s muse during his surrealist period.  However inspired he was by his favorite model at that time, he still needed to choose to pick up the paint brush, paint, and canvas and start painting.  He couldn’t have stood in front of an audience and simply said, “Here lies my muse. She makes me want to paint.” If he had, he’d probably be known as the crazy artist everyone laughed at instead of being known for his famous works of art.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you find yourself in love with potential. Stop. Do not, I repeat, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. In the words of Ghost’s very own Oda mae Brown, as played by Whoopi Goldberg, “You in danger, girl.” Of course I say this fully understanding that there are no guarantees and there are some things that one can truly feel. But I caution you to remember that you can’t take a person to their potential. Trust that person enough to do it for themselves. Trust yourself enough to know that there is room for the person you want–even if it doesn’t come from the potential one.

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