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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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happiness

Defensive Living

Happy Friday!  Well, Saturday now. My apologies for this late post, but I had some severe technological issues yesterday that prevented me from posting this yesterday. But what is a delay, save for a chance to try again? So here we go. Remember when you were learning to drive?  Remember hearing this term, defensive driving?  I do. I was taught that it meant that I needed to drive under the expectation that other drivers could possibly cause harm to my vehicle–either through illegal turns, running red lights, lane changes, etc.  I needed to be alert and aware that danger lurked behind the wheel of every vehicle and driving was a dangerous task.  As I ponder that idea, it has occurred to me that I was taught the same thing about life.  I wasn’t taught that life is full of joy and love.  On the contrary, I was taught that life is hard and full of struggle and danger.  I was taught that I needed to live defensively–being aware that any and almost every body in my life meant me harm and I needed to protect myself from said hard.  It has permeated every facet of my life, save for Motherhood.  I grew up expecting the worst from others–even in the most benign of situations.  It’s strange to think about now because I wonder how much more could I have enjoyed life (and my father as well) if I’d recognized this sooner? Just think about it. Defensive driving makes sense, but defensive living? I’m not so sure. I’m not saying that there isn’t danger in the world.  I recognize that it exists. However, I know for me, life hasn’t been nearly as bad as I’ve anticipated it to be.  And I’m not so sure that living defensively (not to be mistaken for living on the edge), has served me as well as I intended.

 

 

 

 

*About a month ago, I spoke about how we can actually become addicted to the negative experiences in our lives and this is one of the ways it can begin.

Heal That Masculine, Man!

Happy Friday!  What a wonderful time it is.  It’s Father’s Day weekend and I feel like that’s a wonderful time to celebrate men.  I love men.  I can admit that I haven’t always been able to say that. However, I’m so grateful that I can say that now.  I think Father’s Day is a wonderful time for us to examine and begin to take the steps to heal our relationship with the masculine because for many of us, the wounds we have in our relationship with the masculine are rooted with our relationship with our fathers.  That’s why I’m not speaking today of the absent dads–the ones who couldn’t (for whatever reason) be the men we needed.  The story is told so much.  I think it’s time for a new narrative. Although, I will sidebar right now and wish love and joy to all of those whose dad was absent.  I’m sorry he wasn’t there.  I’m sorry he wasn’t what you needed.  I hope you are at peace now, and if not, I hope you are on your way to finding peace.

So , as I was saying, dad’s (and men in general) have gotten a bad rep over the years, and it’s time to release those old ideas that no longer serve.  Men are great.  Men are vital.  After all, women may make the world go round, but men are the axis upon which it spins.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

In The Game of Life, Someone Must Win and Someone Must Lose . . . Or Really?

Happy Friday! It’s a beautiful day to be alive! I didn’t always feel that way, and truth be told, sometimes I still have to give myself that reminder. But it’s the truth. If you’re here, you have to know and trust that you’re here for a reason–and not just cause your Momma and Daddy got busy. They were all part of the design to get you here. Do you realize how special and amazing that is? It’s ok if you don’t right now. Just promise me that you will get around to recognizing that sooner rather than later, ok?

Today’s video is inspired by My Fizzle. She loves to play the board game, Life. Problem is, I don’t love playing with her. She is ultra competitive and she cheats! She really does! She’s also a hater. She hates on you the entire time we’re playing. She doesn’t want anyone to make more money than she does, get married before her, have babies before her. None of it! But watching her play reminded me so much of how a lot of us walk around playing this actual game of life. We fell into the trap of thinking there are limited resources that only a select few of us can have access to. We hate on others for having and being more than we perceive ourselves to have and be. But what if just like Morpheus told Neo, I told you that the reality you’re choosing to believe is false? What if none of that were true and there was enough for everyone? How, then, would you view yourself and others? Hmm . . . something to really ponder, isn’t it? You keep pondering that and let me know what you come up with. Love ya!

That Old Feeling

A magical and glorious Friday to you! How many of you know that life is grand? Or at the very least that it can be. Don’t worry if you you can’t answer “yes” to that question. For a very long time, I couldn’t answer “yes” either. For a while, I was in what I like to call the valley. The valley is where we go when we’ve been rejected, abused, disappointed, frustrated, and sometimes just plain ole’ pissed off. It’s ok to go in the valley. There are definitely some valleys along the path of life. But you know what? Sometimes you can stay in the valley for too long. Sometimes you can stay so long that you forget to travel up to the peaks and you then become accustomed to the valley and all its surroundings. We weren’t meant to stay in the valley. The valley, like everything else in life, is temporary. But we can spend so much time in the valley that we get a valley mind set. And the valley mind set only keeps the very things we truly want away from us. If you’re in a valley right now, I encourage you to do what you must to not adapt a valley mind set. In other words, get on up from that valley! As a wonderful friend told me, “There is no more valley. The valley is gone. The only way you’re in the valley now is because you keep dragging the valley with you.”

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!

Why I Love Yoga

In 2000, I discovered yoga at my local gym. I’d heard of yoga before, but never thought anything of it. I dismissed it because I wasn’t flexible, and after all, you need to be flexible to practice yoga, right? Wrong. I also dismissed it because I ignorantly believed that it wasn’t a workout. During that time, I was all about the gym life. I didn’t believe I’d worked if I didn’t wake up sore and close to pain the next morning. I’m laughing as I write this because I almost can’t believe how far I’ve come. I went to the gym one day for my wonderful strength training class, only to find that there had been a change in the schedule. Instead of the hard-core, weight-filled strength training class, there was a power yoga class. Not really wanting to do the treadmill, as it wasn’t cardio day, I didn’t want to go home. I mean, I’d made the trip to the gym, after all. So I decided to stay for this yoga class. All I can say is Ooh Wee! I worked my tail off! I had never sweated that much before! I walked out of the exercise room, spent and intrigued. I realized I was wrong about yoga. I wanted to practice it more because it kicked my butt and I was not about to have that. So I kept at it. I even bought some VHS tapes (Yep, I still had a VCR in those days and bought VHS tapes) to practice at home so that I could look better in class. I also did what I had a habit of doing back then. I stopped. I’m not really sure why I stopped, but I did. It would be 6 years before I picked it up again–during my pregnancy. Once I had my daughter, I stopped again. And then I picked it up again after my dad passed away. I think that’s when I was truly ready to have a yoga practice because it’s then that I fell in love with everything that it stood for and the transformation it initiated in my life–physically, mentally and spiritually.  I began to understand that yoga is not some exercise fad.  No, it is a spiritual practice.

Once I became really serious about yoga, it brought up a lot for me. There were many things I had to work through, and flexibility was the least of those things. But I stuck with it and I am still a practicing yogi today. Here are just a few reasons why I love yoga.

Yoga taught me to stop comparing myself to others.  I remember being in class with an elderly woman who was near 80 years old.  This woman was so limber!  She gracefully transitioned from downward dog to standing split, to peacock with such ease.  I felt ashamed that my barely 30 year-old self was getting my tail handed to me by this woman.  I began to practice more intensely and I was able to do the poses better. But then, there was the issue of how others looked.  I don’t have a yoga body.  At least that’s what I told myself then.  Many times, I would be the only Black girl in the class and I would feel so inferior to the other women in the class.  It took me a while, but I learned to stay on my mat and concern myself only with what I was doing on my mat.  Now, I don’t care what anyone else is doing.  If I happen to glance at someone else, I simply admire the beauty of their pose and that’s it, because I know today that all that matters is what I’m doing on my own mat.

Yoga helped me to become flexible.  This seems obvious.  After all, stretching our muscles leads to increased flexibility.  However, I’m not talking about simple physical flexibility.  Now don’t get me wrong. I have become much more flexible than I ever was in my previous years. However, I’m saying that yoga helped me to apply the same concept of stretching myself on the mat to stretching myself off the mat.  Something new has come my way? Instead of resisting it, I learned to try it and allow it to stretch me.  If it didn’t work the first time, I’d walk away and come back to it.  I learned that there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in pain.  Flexibility develops right in the midst of that uncomfortable spot.  Who knew?

Yoga taught me to simply breathe.  Je’Niece what do you mean? Breathing is involuntary, so how the heck did you learn to breathe through yoga?  Well, I’m glad you asked me this because I’m more than happy to give you the answer.  Yes, it’s true that breathing is involuntary. However, most of us breathe shallowly.  That means we really only breathe from our chest up.  In yoga, pranayama, or control of breath, is taught.  Ujjayi breathing, which is diaphragmatic breath, is taught.  You breathe completely into your lungs down into your low belly.  Doing so brings your body more oxygen, and it also aids to bring awareness to your body, and release of pent-up emotions.  Learning ujjayi breathing helped me to release tension when I became tense, afraid, or just down right uncomfortable.  It actually proved to be quite beneficial for me when I found myself stuck in traffic.  Yoga helped me to understand that as long as I’m breathing, there’s life. And life means that I have an opportunity to  find something to enjoy in this moment.  And once I get the next moment, I can move into it with grace.  That means  I have not been conquered by whatever seemingly unsurmountable obstacle I see before me. Breath is everything.  The minute I stop breathing, is the minute my game of life is over.  Perspective is a mutha, ain’t it?

Yoga taught me to slow down.  As I have grown in my yoga practice, I’ve tried many of the different forms of yoga.  I’ve found that I am partial to slow flow.  I love slow flow.  My slow flow practice has helped me to understand that I don’t have to rush, rush, rush all in the glorification of busy-ness.  I can actually take things slow and steady.  And I actually like taking my time.  My slow flow practice has helped me to relinquish my to-do lists and adopt the mindset of knowing that I can only do what I can do, as I can do it.  Even more, I’m more apt to do things better the first time if I take my time.  Didn’t the tortoise teach us when we were children that slow and steady wins the race?  Why did we not take heed?

Yoga taught me to release the need for all the bells and whistles.  When I first became serious about yoga, I was serious.  (See what I did there?) To prove how serious I was about being serious about yoga, I went out and bought all the expensive yoga gear–clothing, mats, sticky socks and gloves, and yoga bag to hold them all.  I spent so much money and the funny thing is that I didn’t like most of the stuff I bought.  The bags weren’t big enough to hold my yoga stuff, or I simply wound up repurposing them.  The clothes were cool, but I eventually began wearing them more outside of yoga.  You know what I wear to yoga now?  My clearance bought leggings and tanks from Marshalls and TJ Maxx.  I do have a lululemon mat, but that’s about the most expensive thing I have.  I found I didn’t need all the bells and whistles.  I just needed me and a mat.  And the same is true for my life off the mat.  I don’t need the most expensive clothes, makeup, or car.  I don’t need the biggest house.  My needs are quite minimal when I think about all the things I convince myself that I must to have.  The reality is that I already have everything that I need.  There goes that perspective.

Yoga taught me to become comfortable with seeking support.  When I first began my practice, I balked at the idea of using a block or a strap.  I would risk severe injury by forcing a pose rather than use the supportive tools available to me.  It would take some years before I realized that my body just won’t bend in certain poses the way others can.  It would take a little bit more time to become comfortable with that. No matter how much I try, right now, I just can’t do some poses without the aid of the strap or the block, and that’s ok.  That’s exactly their purpose–to support me.  The same is true for life.  I’m not meant to go it alone. There are people who love me who want nothing more than to support me.  Working over time to prove how big that S on my chest is has done nothing more than cause more harm to myself, AND deprive those who love me the opportunity to actually display their love for me.  And when I think about it, it actually feels much better to be supported.

Sometimes I think if I could just live my life on a yoga mat, I would. I think life would be so wonderful if that’s the way I could live. Then I’m reminded that is one of the reasons I love and practice yoga: so that what arises on the mat will transcend and become what arises off the mat.

 

The Art of Detachment

Happy Friday to you! I am sending good vibes out with today’s post. I really feel like 2016 is stirring up some things for us. There seems to be a collective consciousness that is awakening. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing these themes of unrest and disruption in our world events. Whenever a change is imminent, we mere mortals tend to hold on for dear life to what we have known. There is some fluidity, also known as detachment, that Life needs from us in order for us to get to that “more,” “better,” “different” that we all imagine and yearn for. We can do it. We just have to be willing to detach (there goes that word again!), or let go of the reigns in order to get it. Hope you have a magical weekend!

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?

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.

 

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