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 . . .
One morning my daughter woke up in a panic. She said she was terrified. She’d had a bad dream and apparently this dream rocked her to her core. Even though she knew it was a dream, and even though she knew the most likely cause of the dream—she’d watched a scary episode of a TV show UniKitty, she was still afraid. She didn’t want to walk around the house until the sun arose or until I walked around with her. First, I had to make sure that I turned on the lights before we entered a room. I didn’t get upset with her though. I happily obliged her. I understood her fear. I could remember being a child and being afraid of the toilet flushing. I would have this overwhelming need to rush to my bed and hide under the covers before the toilet completed its cycle. And while I knew it wasn’t a logical fear, it was one I held for many years.
But beyond that, I understood because in that moment I felt as if I was able to witness the ego in the flesh. Many psychoanalysts and psychologists from Freud to present have defined and redefined what the ego is. The ego is essentially our identity that is constructed of the thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves. In the spiritual sector, and other sectors for that matter, the ego can get a bad rep. Check your ego and humble yourself. Don’t be so egotistical. Don’t let your ego rule you. These are just some examples of the warnings we receive regarding our egos. We’re sold an image of the ego as a savage dictator and brat, hell bent on feeding its own desires well past satiation. And sometimes that can be true. Sometimes the ego can operate like a toddler. It can want what it wants without any regard for the consequences. It can be bratty. It can be ruthless in its pursuit to feel better.
But what if it’s more than that? What if the ego isn’t actually a dictator? What if the ego is actually just like my daughter this morning? Simply scared and asking for attention? What if our ego is actually asking us to shed some light in the darkness to illuminate those shadow parts of ourselves? We tend to look at ourselves through cloudy lenses. We grade ourselves with high marks when we do those things which are pleasing to us or when we feel good. When we don’t feel as good, or we feel we’ve misstepped, we tend to fail ourselves. Perhaps our ego is our loving friend who is guiding us to look beyond the surface of what we see and to see ourselves fully as we are, without judgment. But since we humans can be more than a bit stubborn, we don’t always take heed at its first nudging so it has to work harder to get our attention. It has to get louder. It has to start kicking and screaming. Those are the moments where we are at what we deem to be our worst. Those are the moments we look as if we are out of control. We’re fearful, angry, short-tempered, arrogant, and maybe even more than a bit selfish. Those are the moments that in spite of knowing the fear is illogical, we refuse to walk around our familiar home until our mom walks with us and turns on all the lights. But instead of it being about us getting out of control, perhaps we can consider that it’s more than that and that’s just the moment when we have the opportunity to gain control and begin to take the steps to accept ourselves. It’s the moment we get to turn on the lights to see things and ourselves as they truly are and not as they simply exist in our minds, which gives us a chance to accept ourselves and grow. That’s a pretty radical thought, isn’t it?
Ego, just a three-letter word and yet so interesting. If we did not have an ego, we would be lost. Feeding it too much we would also be lost.
Lida van Bers
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.
*my dad as Uncle Vester in the movie House Party 3 giving his nephew, Kid advice about not caring about what people think of you*
Growing up, I have heard some variation of this from my father on several different occasions. Being a sensitive child, this lesson would bear repeating. It would infuriate my father when I would come home crying about how someone hurt my feelings because they either said or did something to me that, well, hurt. Dad: Why are you crying? Me: Because so-n-so said _________. Dad: So what? Who are they? They ain’t nobody! Stop caring what people think about you! I tried to do as he said. I truly did. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to master the art of not caring. And here I am today, still unable to stop caring. Truth be told, my father never actually mastered that art himself. He was another sensitive soul and contrary to what he did his best to portray, he cared a lot about what others’ thought of him.
Thing is though, this isn’t “bad.” It’s a very human thing. We care. We want to be accepted and liked and told we’re ok. It’s uncomfortable when that doesn’t happen. Depending upon the source of the rejection, or how the rejection is dished, it can hurt. A lot. I’ve spent a lot of time contributing to my hurt by trying to act as if I didn’t care. I recognize today that it’s much easier to simply acknowledge that I do care. Now don’t get me wrong. Mere strangers don’t necessarily have the ability to break me down with their critique or rejection. However, depending upon the method in which they choose to deliver it, I can be hurt. And if I truly care about you? Fuh-get about it! I am hurt. And you know what? That’s ok. There is actually nothing inherently wrong with caring about what people think and say about you. It’s a natural, human condition.
I understand my dad’s intentions for trying to teach me to not care. It was rooted in the desire to protect me. But denial doesn’t actually beget avoidance. There’s no actual way to avoid having your feelings hurt in life. Sure, I could hide behind a well crafted wall to keep people out, thereby insuring no one gets close enough to hurt me. I actually think we’ve gotten to a place in life where most of us are walking around crafting these walls to avoid pain. Our ultimate goal is to avoid pain, so we deny, deny, deny. We act nonchalant about everyone and everything, all the while secretly feeling everything. So yeah, I could do that. However, I’d not only be keeping out hurt. I’d also be keeping out love and all the other good stuff that people have to offer. I think the key is to allow myself the space to experience my hurt feelings without giving so much weight to what others have to say. I’m the final judge and jury of my life so I get final say. Someone thinks I’m ugly? Ouch, but that’s their opinion and not a fact. Further, it doesn’t have to cloud my opinion of my looks. Someone thinks I’m a terrible writer? Well I’ve never! Actually I have and it hurt my feelings, but I didn’t allow that person’s opinion to stop me from writing because I love to write. And not to sound cocky, but I think I’m pretty damn good at it. So there.
This comes up a lot now because my daughter is at a pivotal stage in her development. She reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age and she seems to encounter someone here and there who tells her something unflattering about herself. And because she takes after her mama in the area of sensitivity, she admits that her feelings become hurt when it happens. The Mama Bear in me wants her to point them out so I can accidentally trip them on purpose, but I know this is her lesson and I have to mind my business. Although let me just say that I’ll fight a kid. Yep, sure will! Anyway, unlike the lessons my dad gave me, I allow her the space to be hurt. Inevitably after the hurt passes she tells me that while she was hurt, she knows who she is and she doesn’t believe the person. Well, would you look at that? Who knew?
I’m not knocking my father at all. I know he did the best he could with what he had. And I appreciate him immensely for all he gave me. I think parenting is incredibly difficult and it’s impossible to know with certainty how what you give will impact your children. But one of the beautiful things in life is that we can learn both directly and indirectly from our parents. This was an indirect lesson I learned from my dad, but it was a lesson nonetheless. And as I feel with all my lessons from him, I’m so grateful for it.
*I do not own the rights to the above video*
Hey! How ya doing? Good to see ya. Glad to be here. Sorry it’s been so long. And let’s not forget, Happy Friday! I know it’s been a long time. And honestly, I really want to get better at being more consistent. It’s been an interesting journey through life thus far. I keep finding myself in these stages of growth and when that happens, I need to take steps back and process. So that’s what I’ve been doing. But I had to share this video because I got a lot of feedback (unexpected feedback at that) about something I said on Wednesday. Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of the day my dad died and I said something about that day and people really seemed to resonate with it so I felt led to share this. I hope it helps whoever needs to hear it. Enjoy your day and your weekend!
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.
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.
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.
A magical, marvelous, glorious, and wonderful Friday to you! If you can’t tell, I’m super excited. My birthday is tomorrow and that gives me a reason to celebrate myself–something I must admit I don’t do nearly enough. Now while I’m quite interested in doing the damn thing for myself, I can’t deny that this has also given me an opportunity to grow. Wanna hear how? Well watch the video.
Dear 16 year-old Je’Niece,
I look at you today with eyes that have seen so much more than you. That’s not to say that you haven’t seen your fair share of life. But these eyes of mine have seen more than the visions of sugar plums that are currently dancing around in your head. These eyes of mine have seen you achieve your highest highs and your lowest lows. And I have to say to you, based on the road traveled, this 38 year-old woman owes you a sincere apology.
I have blamed you for so much. I blamed you for not speaking up when necessary in this life. I have blamed you for all my failures and disappointments. I have blamed you for not being perfect. I stopped seeing the beauty and wonder that existed within you, and instead only saw how you failed to measure up to this ideal that I thought should have existed. In short, and I’m almost ashamed to admit this now, I hated you. I hated you, 16 year-old Je’Niece. It has taken me all this time to see and admit this.
And just where did this hatred begin? I don’t think there is one exact moment that serves as the definitive one. No. Instead, I think it was a gradual process. An unfortunate seed that was planted, fertilized and watered over the course of one year. The seed germinated until it infected every area of your life. Let’s see, at the age of 16, you lost your virginity. You didn’t really want to. But you didn’t know how to say that. You wanted to be liked, and so you acquiesced. Your religious foundation left you feeling damaged and unworthy after engaging in such a sinful act. You felt guilty beyond repair. It didn’t help that you would vacillate from saying you would never have sex again to dismissing that declaration without much thought. And then it happened. The one thing you never thought would happen to you. You became pregnant. Prior to your pregnancy, you looked your nose down at the young pregnant girls you saw walking around. And then you became one of them. This discovery left you devastated. After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen to you. This was the sort of thing that happened to “fast” girls, but it wasn’t supposed to happen to you because you were supposed to be a “good” girl–a “smart” girl. You should have known better. And there was no way you could have ever told your father. No way! So that left you with only one choice. Abortion. Yep, you had an abortion. This one choice sent you further into the abyss of despair, guilt and shame. This choice followed you and the shame permeated your every choice after that. You didn’t believe you deserved anything good. You told yourself you deserved to be punished. And you unconsciously set out to make sure that you were.
So you accepted ill-treatment from others because you didn’t believe you deserved to be treated better. You lived in fear instead of love because you didn’t think you deserved the fruits of love and joy. You didn’t seek out your dreams because again, you didn’t deserve to have your dreams come true. In short, you resigned yourself to a life of just enough. Just enough to get by. Just enough to wear a half-hearted smile to cover your true shame. Just enough to create the illusion that you were ok. Just enough to continue to buy the bs you were selling to every one else. You walked in fear that you would be found out. I mean, if people only knew the truth, they’d know what a sham you were. Right?
No. Wrong, My Dear. And I’m sorry I didn’t know any of this back then. I blamed you for so much. I bullied you. I treated you so badly. So these eyes of mine tear a little when they look at you now, because these eyes have seen so much and they see so much more clearly than your young ones. These eyes of mine see so much beauty and strength and grace. My goodness, young woman, you are powerful beyond measure! You carried all of that on your shoulders–alone–and still managed to graduate a year early from high school with honors, go on to college and grad school, get married, raise a baby, and have love in your heart for others! You never allowed the light within to truly dim. You need to know that all of that is a sign of strength.
So yes, I have to say sorry. I used to look at you and hate what I saw. I used to think you were pathetic and weak and could have been so much more. I’m so sorry because I now know I couldn’t have been more wrong. Looking at you now leaves me with so much gratitude. It’s because of you that I stand here today. Your strength brought me this far. So yes, thank you, 16 year-old Je’Niece! If I could, I’d give you the biggest, warmest, heartiest hug you have ever had. But since I can’t, allow me to say something I wish I’d said a long time ago. I love you.