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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!

My Bad Date

I went on a date two weeks ago.  That might not seem news worthy to you, but those who know me are aware of what a big deal this was.  I haven’t been on a date in . . . let’s just say awhile.  Not because I’m not interested in dating, but the opportunity just hasn’t presented itself.  You see, I don’t get approached very often by men.  When I am approached, I’m usually approached by older gentlemen.  And by older, I mean they’ve been proud card carrying members of AARP for at least 15 years–and that’s not usually the median.  Hey, I’m not knocking that.  My daddy was an AARP member before he passed. But that’s just the thing.  I don’t have the Daddy issues that would allow me to feel comfortable going out with one of these Sugar Daddies. Well I hope they would intend to be a Sugar Daddy coming at me with that. But anyway! I’m getting off topic. Back to the date.   So I was minding my own business at the gas station when a nice looking gentlemen drove up and complimented my leggings.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I smiled and said, “Thank you.” He continued to compliment me and then asked for my number.  I was caught completely off guard, but I acquiesced and gave my number.  He called just a few hours later and asked me out that night.  I didn’t know whether to be flattered or concerned.  (I told you it’s been a while).  But I agreed.  Again, those that know me are aware of what a huge deal this is.  As a matter of fact, my god sis and a couple of my friends were quite amazed at my revelation.  Now I wasn’t quite like Prince Akeem proclaiming to the young girls on the stoop that I have a date with Lisa, but I was excited by the idea of a man being nice to me, taking me out, and showing me a good time.

I’m not one of those who get swept up in the rapture of imagination.  One date did not a love match make for me.  So I’m saying my expectations were in check. Let’s just go out and see how it goes.  Talking with him on the phone held promise, so I figured odds were good that I would have a good time. After all, positive thoughts usually yield positive results, right?  Well, let me just say, positively thinking for the best did not  a successful date make. It was a disaster! I felt like a piece of meat on the chop block for the most carnivorous of  carnivores.  He kept referring to how sexy I am.  Now, don’t get me wrong. A compliment can be very nice. And I’ll admit that as a woman, yes I want to be seen as attractive by the opposite sex. But there is a point where one can go too far and the compliment doesn’t seem that . . . well, complimenting.  The guy went past that point.  It went downhill when after dinner he proclaimed, “Well since we didn’t order dessert, that means you’ll have to be dessert.”  Bruh! No. Just no.  We went to a movie after dinner and he basically assaulted my mouth the entire time. Think Charlotte from the “No Ifs, Ands or Butts” episode of Sex and the City when she dated the bad kisser and proclaimed, “He raped my chin!”  While he didn’t rape my chin, he did ram his tongue down my throat, and kept ramming said tongue down my throat.  I think he thought it was sexy.  It wasn’t though.  I kept pulling away, but that only seemed to make him think it was meant for him to go harder.  Again, it was horrible.  Other horrible mentions for the night included him proclaiming to me that he was keeping me for the night.  For the record, he wasn’t nor did he.  He also asked me what he was going to do when he introduced me to his mama’nem.  Yeah again, No. Just no.  He also looked down at my feet and called telling me “Looks like I”m going to be sucking on some toes tonight” a compliment.  Again, I just have to say that it was bad.  Now, I’m not knocking anyone who thinks any of this was good. But for me, this was not good.  None of it was good.  I couldn’t wait to get in my car and drive away.

Of course, my girlfriends all got a wonderful hearty laugh at my expense.  My god sis actually just stopped bringing it up.  Aside from that, this little story here isn’t really about the guy or the bad date.  I’m someone who approaches everything in life from a “What’s in this for me?” stand point.  I believe there’s always a lesson that can be learned if we pay enough attention.  While I wholeheartedly believe the date was horrible,  I have to say I did get a lesson.  I learned that it’s time for me to stop playing small when it comes to the opposite sex.  I’ve been so focused on being Mommy and getting my ducks in a row for myself that I have been closed off from men. My god sis is always telling me that men look at me but I never seem to notice.  I’ve been unintentionally sending off invisible smoke signals that indicate to men to keep on walking.

The other thing I learned is that I’m uncomfortable with being seen by men.  Before it became pervy, I was taken aback by the compliments guy was giving me because it just doesn’t occur to me that I’m seen as attractive.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have low self esteem where I’m looking like Little Quacker from Tom & Jerry, with a bag over my head proclaiming, “I’m so ugly.” But I do struggle with the idea that people see me as attractive–especially men.  It’s a bit unnerving when people compliment me on my looks.  I don’t know why, but it is.  When I see an attractive man, I don’t even bother to show interest because my first thought is, “He’s probably not interested in me anyway.”  So this experience taught me that it’s time for me to get comfortable receiving.  I need to get comfortable receiving time, attention, compliments, and genuine interest.  I’m so accustomed to giving. I will give beyond what I am able because giving just feels natural to me.  I will give until it doesn’t feel good to give anymore. And what do I do then?  I give some more. My scales of balance are off.  It’s time to get them back in balance.  So I guess I can’t say the date was all bad.  Well, yeah I can, but at least I can also say something good came out of it for me.

 

 

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.”

On Life and Death

Happy Friday! It’s been a week since our beloved Prince Rogers Nelson has departed from this physical realm, and I’m still sad. But I’m more happy about his life. Prince was a gift. His music will live on forever. He exemplified audaciousness and spunk. He showed us what it looks like to be authentically yourself–at every stage. Seriously! The man was all of 5’4″, but commanded a room with the presence of a 6’5″ man! Women and men alike wanted him! He wore heels–diamond encrusted ones at that! His hair was ALWAYS laid better than any woman’s hair AND he was prettier than most of us, yet we never laughed AT him over it. We were mesmerized by him. And when he opened his mouth . . . Wow! His voice. His singing. His intellect. He graced us all with his presence. How dare we sit around, staying sad. And that’s not just for Prince. That’s for us all. I’ve always said that death isn’t difficult for the dead. No, it’s difficult for those of us who are left behind. But the thing we need to remember is that while there is definitely a time to mourn, that time is temporary. Mourn. Heal. Then celebrate. Celebrate life! We all know we’re here for a finite time. Let’s not get so caught up on death that we forget to live. Let’s not get so caught up in mourning death that we forget to highlight the life.

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!

What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

“Happy Friday!  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  One of my favorite songs that I’ve been playing lately is Demi Lovato’s Confident.  It’s on my Theme Songs playlist and I love it because it speaks to me.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being confident.  In fact, it’s absolutely necessary that we have some confidence in ourselves.  This is an area in which I have struggled.  I’ve put my confidence in people, things, events, but very rarely myself.  Well times they are a-changing because I’m finally learning to put some confidence in myself.  I hope you’re doing that as well.

And it’s so very easy to look at someone else and believe that they’re much better at the confidence game than you. But we all at some point or another struggle with confidence. And if you haven’t yet, just keep living, because it will probably happen.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes.

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you’ve started.”
Marcus Garvey

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.

 

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