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!
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.
Happy New Year! I’ve been going back and forth between excitement and dread since the turn of this new year of our Lord. Excitement because the optimist in me believes that I am closer to the true joy that I long for. I believe doors are going to open that were once closed. Dread because the little doubter in me is afraid that it might not happen. So that what if it doesn’t pops up now and again. So what do I do? I sit back and watch the two battle ’til the death for it. Well not really. But it would make for an interesting show.
Anyway, as the sun revolved around this here earth for one more ‘gin, I was hit with an unexpected circumstance. Initially, it made me really sad. Someone who believes they know me accused me of being some things that I’m not. But as I sat with it, I began to feel better because I was reminded of how far I’ve come. I know this person was either truly mistaken or simply lying because I am not the things that I was said to be. But I remember a time when I wouldn’t have known the truth of that. I remember a time when I would have simply believed what this person said because I unknowingly would have assumed this person was in authority over my life. Thank goodness for growth and wisdom because today I know better. Today, I know who I am. And any time I’m confronted with a moment like this, I ask myself the question, “Well who do you say you are, Je’Niece?” It’s proven to be a good practice for me.
As we go forth into this 2016th year, may we all take a moment to ask ourselves the question so that we can root ourselves firmly in the knowledge of who we are. Happy New Year again!
Hey there! I know I have been so inconsistent with my posts. But I’ve been in a really contemplative state. So this is the time of year when I do a lot of work–not necessarily manual labor, but more spiritual. I spend a lot of time working on myself, releasing old habits and things that no longer serve; learning new more serving ideologies, methods, etc. and incorporating them into my life.
As I look forward to releasing this here year of 2015, I was faced with the questions of “What is your truth? And how did you find it?” Well don’t you know those are some darn tootin’ good questions?! And I was really happy to have been asked them because it allowed me the space to answer. Soooo . . . Here’s what I was able to gather for myself. But what about you? What’s your truth? And how did you find it?
While I didn’t get to post my gratitudes for the past 2 days, I must say I’m still feeling quite grateful. My daughter and I have gone to visit my best friend who moved away in August. I’ve known her since we were 4 years old. She’s been an integral part of my life throughout its duration. I was quite happy when she received the amazing job opportunity in August–which is what prompted her move. I was so excited for her and her son (who is also my amazing god son). But, I can’t lie. I was sad for me. I was sad that my best friend was gone and I would no longer have the opportunity to just run by and sit on her couch while we talk about everything and nothing. I was so excited to see them when they pulled up at the airport that I burst into tears. It’s been great spending time with them. And my Fizzle is so happy to see her “brother.” We’re reunited and it feels oh so good. So this feel good feeling that we’re all feeling is only inspiring me to continue on with the gratitudes. So here we go.
On this day I am grateful to my mother. When I was growing up, my security relied on my parents. In my mind, we were a Love Triangle–our own Holy Trinity if you will–with my dad at the top, and me and my mom at the bottom. I didn’t want much if we weren’t all together. As the years went on, my mom and I developed an incredibly close relationship. I would tell people she was my best friend. I would nurture her and look out for her. I never told her, but I’d even get scared in the middle of the night that something might happen, so I’d get up and check her breathing. Mother-Daughter relationships are extremely complicated and can be incredibly volatile. Yet somehow, my mother and I were able to navigate through the explosive Mother/Daughter realm with ease. We were the amazing dynamic duo. We were the envy of mothers and daughters everywhere. I had several friends chastise their moms with cries of “Why can’t we be more like Je’Niece and her mom!” Of course our relationship would irritate the hell out of my dad and he’d say things like “Your mother is going to hurt your feelings one day.” I thought that was incredibly odd and quite rude to say, and I couldn’t understand why he’d say that—until he passed away
An incredible shift took place in our relationship. A distance I’d never known grew between us. It felt quite hostile. All that mushy gooey-ness we shared seemed to dissipate before my very eyes. It was incredibly hard for me. As an only child, I’d built my identity on my parental units. Now my father was dead and it seemed that my mother was (in a way) dying to me as well. I would ask if I’d done anything, did I remind her too much of my dad, and of course she would say no. But she wouldn’t offer me any thing else. We went from talking for hours every day to not talking—sometimes for weeks at a time. She had her story she was into about me and I had my story that I was into about her. It was so bad that when she got engaged, I may have been the last person to find out. She told people at the spa we both went to before she told me! I was crushed. I don’t do well when my feelings are hurt. I retreat. To others, it appears that I’m angry, but I am not. I am simply hurt and unable to move forward. It’s a simple defense mechanism, but this time I made an exception. I chased my mother. I mean I ran after her until there were holes in my proverbial emotional shoes. I couldn’t sleep or eat and it seemed like the harder I chased, the faster and the farther she ran away. Until this day we have never come to a true conclusion as to what prompted the shift. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I am so thankful that it occurred, because it forced me to recognize some heavy truths. While I love my mother with one of the purest loves I’ve ever felt, we had an extremely co-dependent, slightly dysfunctional relationship. My father was the center of our universe and much of our bond centered on an Us vs. Him set up. We weren’t very honest with one another either. I think we both believed my father to be a brutally honest person who would not dare hesitate to hurt your feelings in the name of “Truth” so we wouldn’t give that honesty to one another. We’d give the sweet, syrup, sugar coated version of what we thought the other “needed” to hear. I think we both also bought into the notion that the only “important” person in the family was my dad. Even before he became famous, he had this electric energy that just commanded attention. We both knew we were important, but just not as important as he. So we settled into this coddling type of relationship with one another. Neither one of us living to our true potential, but telling each other that we were. When my dad passed away, we didn’t need that anymore. We needed to move into something that would better serve us. But I didn’t get that. Hell, I didn’t want that! I felt like: Dammit there has been enough change in my life (with my dad’s death and my divorce) and if I couldn’t have at least this one relationship the way it’s always been what the hell was left for me?! But I realize now that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it had to happen as it did because I wouldn’t have gotten the memo any other way. Had she not stepped away from me, I probably would have moved in with her and become a spinster. I would have played safe, put all my focus on her. I would have asked permission to make any type of move in my life and only done so if she wanted me to. I remember her coming to me after my dad died. She said, ‘I had a dream that you moved to California with Jasmine and I was so hurt. I just couldn’t believe that you would do that to me.” I really did want to move to California, but I took what she said as a warning and decided, “OK well I won’t do that.” That shift in our relationship showed me that having boundaries in our relationships is one of the healthiest, loving things we can do for the ones we love. That shift in our relationship healed the mother/daughter bond and allowed me to be a better mother to my daughter. Otherwise, I probably would have repeated the very same pattern with Jasmine. Regardless of my initial reaction, that shift was the best thing that ever happened to us. We both have gone on to the paths we were meant. I now know that better days are ahead of me and that I am the only person required to give permission in my life. And while our present relationship is not what it was, I don’t love or appreciate my mother any less than I did then. I may actually appreciate her more because she helped me find my strength. So in some ways, once again, my dad was right because my mom did in fact hurt my feelings. But whether she meant to or not, she made me a better person, Woman and Mother. So thanks Mom. You were and still are a great teacher.
It’s been quite refreshing to reflect upon my life with gratitude instead of regret. I’ve long since been of the belief that regret is a waste of time, energy, and emotion. However, I’m not feeling as judgmental of it as I once did. Instead, I’m just in a peaceful space. I don’t feel the need to replay the events of my life thinking “If I had only . . . ” I’m ok with it all as it is. After all, it’s jut life. So onward to the gratitude of today.
On this day, I am grateful to the loneliness I experienced while growing up Mac. Many people (some names known, others not so much) have discarded me and hated me simply because I am “Bernie Mac’s daughter.” Many people assume that the fact that my father was famous means that I had an easy life with no problems and that simply is not true. Many people assume that I grew up as this pampered princess and that also is simply untrue. My father’s road to fame was not on the express ramp. There were many years of hard work, disappointments, and ultimately successes. But those successes were his, not mine. I remember when things started taking off, he sat me down and told me “You are about to be hated. You’re going to be hated by people you know who claim to love you and you’re going to be hated by people who won’t even take the time to get to know you. And they’ll hate you simply because you’re mine. Now if I don’t take care of you they’ll say, That’s a damn shame Bernie Mac don’t take care of his daughter. But because I take good care of you, they’re going to hate you. They’re going to hate you because they’ll wish they had what you do.” Now I’ll admit that I heard him, but I didn’t really grasp what he was saying. I was (and still am) the type of person who has nothing but good vibes for others. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced jealousy over what someone has. So it was impossible for me to conceive that people would react this way. Oh my, was I wrong! He was right. I was ridiculed, bullied, betrayed (even by members of my own “family”) simply because my father was becoming famous. I was (and still am) reduced to nothing but Bernie Mac’s daughter. So that meant that I had no skills or talents of my own. I have never achieved anything in my own right. Everything I have, everything I have done has been handed to me simply because my father is Bernie Mac. Now to some, this may not sound so bad. But for a sensitive soul like me, it hurt like nobody’s business. I was already insecure and needy so when people became hostile toward me I internalized their issues and made them my own. I was desperate for people to just see Me: Je’Niece. Not Je’Niece who happens to be Bernie Mac’s daughter. I didn’t meet too many people who were willing to do that and so I was very lonely. Iyanla Vanzant has said that to be lonely is to be shut down from the thing you want. I wanted to be seen, but I wasn’t seeing myself. I wanted to be loved, but I wasn’t loving myself. Yes my father was famous and had all of these accolades, but what did I have? It would be well into my adulthood when I figured out that all the people who were reducing me to just Bernie Mac’s daughter were mirrors of the very thing I was doing to myself. And guess what happened once I became comfortable in my own skin? Yep, you guessed it! I began to attract people into my life who saw me and valued me. Now don’t get me wrong, I still encountered (and still do) those who hate me for being my father’s daughter, but the difference is today they don’t matter. So today, I’m no longer lonely because today I know that I am always in the company of at least one great person, and her name is Je’Niece. So, I am thankful for that time and those people and well, not to sound cliché, but here’s to all the haters.
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?