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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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adulthood

Clean Up, Clean Up

Happy Friday!  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  

So today’s post was yet another inspired one. I was simply doing some much needed cleaning around my house, when lo and behold!  I got a lesson! I just had to share it with you, because, well . . . sharing is caring.

Hope you get something out of what I said (and no worries if you didn’t).  And even more, hope you are living, loving, and enjoying yourself.  Until next time!

And if you did get something, please feel free to post a comment to tell me what.

What Do You Do?

For as long as I can remember, I have never enjoyed conversations that are geared toward “work”. Allow me to explain what I mean.

“So what do you do?”
“Where do you work?”

Those questions have had a tendency to put me on edge. I begin to sweat the way I did 20 odd years ago when I found myself in a crowded room at Chicago State University, taking the ACT. The questions make me feel as if I have to prove myself to the person asking. And I don’t say this because I find myself on the far end of 30 still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I say it because the questions have always made me feel uncomfortable. And I once had a career. After graduating from Xavier University of New Orleans with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, I worked for the Orleans Parish Criminal Courts in New Orleans. Once I returned to my hometown of Chicago, I began working as a Work First counselor at the South Suburban Counselor on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. So, I’ve had jobs and have been able to answer the questions. I just have never liked needing to.

Though in the past I could not quite grasp why, those “So what do you do?” “Where do you work” type questions grated on my nerves, I can say today, I have figured it out. I don’t like them because I couldn’t care less about what someone does. When I meet a person and I’m interested, I want to know about the person. I want to know about that person. I mean really KNOW. I want to know what makes that person come alive, where their passions lie. I want to know the content of their soul. And telling me what they do just doesn’t necessarily answer that for me. I mean just look at what I’ve shared thus far. Telling you about my education and work history gave you no real insight into who I am. None. It just gave you surface details about me. But it didn’t tell you what makes me tick. And for me, that’s the stuff that gets me excited when I meet a person. I want to know what makes you tick.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with asking such questions. They can be great ice breakers. And I also understand that we human beings need to work to earn money in order to survive in our world. And I understand that there are things people do (and need to do) to earn money and “make a living.” But I have never identified with my source of employment. I’ve never And I’ll go ahead and admit that in spite of what I’m saying, I have been excited to get the job. I’ve been grateful to be able to say that I work. But after the nostalgia wears off, I’m left with a kind of “What next?” feeling. And I now know that I feel this way because one does not make a living by earning money. If that were true, one would die the minute one found themselves without a job. In the same vein that India.Arie exclaimed that she is not her hair, I must exclaim that I am not my job. And you know what? Neither are you!

I say all of this wholeheartedly believing that most don’t ask this question with ill intentions. It’s simply small talk. It’s seen as an easy way to get to know a person. And it can be.  But sometimes it can be used in a isolating manner. It can be used to figure out what box to put another in. They can sometimes be questions that scream (even unintentionally), “Please help me disconnect from you in the most efficient way possible.” And I don’t believe most truly seek out ways to disconnect and isolate themselves from others. It’s just pure old fashioned social conditioning. Asking the questions helps one figure out what category to place another. Same as the “Are you married?” “Do you have any children?” questions. Harmless enough. Right?

Well, now I answer those questions quite differently. I get weird looks sometimes–and it has even ended a conversation (before the conversation actually began) here and there. But like the old cartoon characters who professed, “If I do this, I get a whipping . . . I do it!” right before they do something they know will rattle another, I do it anyway. Now when people ask me what I do, my answer is simply, “I live and love.”

“We must not be defined by what we do, but we must be what and who we are, then only happen to do what we do!”
― C. JoyBell C.

Choices . . . Choices . . . Choices

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.

Who Do You Think You Are?

When I was a kid, I had this image in my head of who I would be when I reached my 30s.  I thought I’d have it all together.  Now, don’t ask me what it all was; and don’t ask me how I was going to have or put it together.  That’s besides the point.  The point is that I was going to do the damn thing.  So you can imagine my shock and dare I say, embarrassment, to find myself in my mid 30s, divorced, raising my child alone, unemployed (with degrees), and having the nerve to still find myself figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

I called shenanigans on this here Life thing.  I mean I felt seriously bamboozled.  I graduated high school with a 4.1 GPA.  And yeah, ok while I graduated from undergrad Thank You Lawdy, my GPA in my major was a 3.7 (so there!).  I even graduated grad school with a 3.66 GPA.  So didn’t that mean I was entitled to some type of reward?  And I’m not talking about that piece of paper they give you on the stage.  So where was my damn award? Dammit! *Cue Florida from Good Times*

I was pissed.  I felt led astray. Run amuck.  I didn’t land on Plymouth Rock! Plymouth Rock landed on me!  Oh wait, that was Denzel as Malcolm X, but I think you get my point.  My point is that I was angry. And I was angry for a good reason. This isn’t what my life was supposed to be!  After all, I’m me!  And that’s when it hit me.  So what.  Just who in the hell did I think I was?

My dad would say quite often to me, “It’s not what the world owes you.  The world don’t owe you nothing.  It’s what you owe the world.”  I lost track of that somewhere along the way.  I got full of myself and started living on auto pilot, expecting the world to give me things.  Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to work hard.  I was willing to be kind and compassionate. But I was still expecting a reward for being and doing those things.  So a little piece of me would run and build a piece of a wall whenever I would experience disappointment.  I worked hard but didn’t get the A?  Lay a brick down.  I was loving and got rejected?  Slather that cement and add another brick.  The job, that person didn’t turn out to be what I wanted?  We’re going to need some more bags of bricks and cement over here guys!  I built that wall until one day I realized there was no one on the side of it with me.  And I had no one to blame but myself.  Initially, that depressed the hell out of me.  I was downtrodden.  I felt hopeless and full of despair. Then I realized what a treasure that is!  First, I realized that no one abandoned or rejected me.  I abandoned and rejected myself.  The people in our lives are only mirrors reflecting us back to ourselves.  So there was that.  Then I got excited because I figured if I’m the one responsible for this all, then I have the power to change it.

Wow, How simple!  And you know what?  I’ve been doing just that. And you know something else?  It’s been difficult.  It is certainly not easy to take the reigns of my life and steer them in the direction I wish to head.  Simplicity and ease are not synonymous.  While it may not be easy, it is quite doable.  And the rewards that I have been desperately seeking for most of my life are now mine.  Rewards like peace, confidence, self-love (and after all, self love is the best love).  I gave them to myself the minute I stopped looking for them to come from an external source.  Now that I’ve chosen to look within, I can get on with the business of giving something back to the world.  I can now contribute the things that only I can contribute in the way that only I can contribute them so that when I leave this place, I can leave knowing that I did what I could and what I wanted.  And that is the task before each of us–to give the world what only we can give without needing and wanting the world to give us something in return.

So ok, my life doesn’t look like what I wanted it to look like. But come on, why would it?  I was holding on to a vision I crafted when I was 8.  I mean, who does that?  It had to change.  And that’s okay.  Right now, I can say that while it still doesn’t quite look as I would like, I have and I am taking the steps to get it where I want it .  After all, I don’t need the world.  I just need to be me in it.  

So what about you?  Who do you think you are?  And just what are you going/and willing to do about it?

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