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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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Life

Suffering and Silence

This week seems to have developed the unintentional theme of death.  Maybe it’s the death of our family friend, coupled with the anniversary of my dad’s death.  Maybe it’s just seeing so many people in bereavement.  Whatever it is, I feel compelled to continue on this roll I have stumbled upon.  One thing I know about myself is that I know what it feels like to lose, to hurt, to be counted out.  Don’t we all?  It’s always been my desire to aid others in the process.  There have been so many times where I have felt alone and broken. And while I am so thankful to be beyond those spaces, I remember when I wasn’t.  That’s one of the reasons why I share so much of myself.  I truly believe there is healing in sharing. I don’t think silence serves anyone.  As Jane Fonda says, “We are not meant to be perfect. We’re meant to be whole.” And as my father used to say, “We all have a ghetto story.”  We all have tales of how we were broken, hurt, lost, confused, etc. My story may not be your story, but in hearing yours, it may just help me get to the next chapter of my own; and vice versa.  So that’s where I’m coming from.

I said yesterday that death brings a lot of uncomfortable feelings–and not just for the bereaved.  It’s not just uncomfortable to be the one left in pain after a loss.  It can also be uncomfortable to witness someone in pain.  People tend to be action-oriented. We are all about doing. Witnessing someone’s pain motivates us to want to find the solution for them.  However, it can be so difficult that sometimes we want to find the solution for them long distance. What do I mean by this?  I mean that sometimes, we don’t actually want to help. We just want the person to feel better so that we can cease to be uncomfortable.  When death hits (and it doesn’t have to involve a physical death. It can be the death of a relationship, death of a job, etc.), the bereaved is now changed.  They are no longer who they once were prior to this death. We are ok with the initial impact.  I mean, it’s to be expected that you are different. That’s one of the reasons everyone gathers immediately after a death.  Everyone gathers the day of and leading up to the funeral. They’re calling. Sending flowers. Bringing food. Stopping by.  They show up without prompting.  It just makes sense.  But you know what happens?  The funeral comes. There may even be a repast. But it inevitably ends and everyone scatters back home to their normal lives while the bereaved are left to deal alone.  This is when the change really hits.  And let me just say something about change.  Change tends to occur successively, meaning that your change affects me.  I will have to adjust accordingly to your change; thereby creating a change in me. A lot of us are resistant to change. So we want you to do whatever you can to get through this so you can go back to being who you were before so that I can go back to being the way I was before.  But that’s not really how life works.  And deep down we know this.  So we want to help. We say we will help. But what happens a lot of time is that we don’t actually help.  And we actually put the onus on you to get our help.  What does this look like? Thanks for asking.  Allow me to paint the picture for you.  It goes something like this. “I’m so sorry.  If you need anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, don’t hesitate to call.” Do you see? That now puts the responsibility of the bereaved for supporters to actually support.

I heard this a few times when my dad passed away. I also heard it a lot at the funeral I attended over the weekend.  I have even said it myself.  But what I know today is that it’s such a callous thing to say.  You’re basically telling the bereaved that you don’t have any real plans to show up for them beyond this moment.  How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it.  I have never felt more alone in my life than I did after my dad passed away.  All the people who were committed to being around enjoying benefits when my dad was alive were nowhere to be found for me when my father passed.  I’ve said this to a few and they actually implied that it’s my fault that they didn’t offer anything because I didn’t say anything.  As far as they are concerned, I seemed fine and if I wasn’t fine, then it was up to me to say so.  In another instance, I might actually agree. After all, closed mouths don’t get fed, do they?  But I have to disagree here because death is a different game.  You see, sometimes people are hurting so much that they don’t even know what they need.  They don’t even know to speak up to say Hey, I’m hurting.  Sometimes they hurt so much that they retreat, act out, or do their best to numb the pain.  Sometimes they don’t want to burden anyone.  Their inability to speak up regarding their pain is in no way an admission that it doesn’t exist.  It simply means they just are unable to speak up.  I think it’s actually unfair for those of us who are not in pain to blame the bereaved for being in pain.  We all have had our moment with pain. And if you haven’t, just wait. Your moment will come.  Some of us may behave in way that others of us cannot understand. It’s easy to say If it were me, I’d just speak up, when you are not in pain. The truth is, you don’t know what you would do.  You don’t know how you will feel.  And sometimes, neither does the bereaved.  Grief can be such a confusing process and we don’t really give those who are bereaved the time they need to go through it.  We expect sadness at the funeral. But we also expect them to dry their eyes and return to normal and that’s so unfair.  Stop telling people in bereavement to call you if they need anything. Stop leaving them hanging once the funeral ends.  Continue to check on them.  Continue to be there for them without prompting.  You don’t have to fix it for them because the truth is you can’t.  But you can show up. You can support.

After my father died, my cousin would randomly send me bible verses via text.  I would never know when they were coming, but they came faithfully for over a year.  He actually still sends them to this day.  I would cry as I read them.  Sometimes I still do.  After a while, I began to look forward to them.  He didn’t know it at the time, (hell neither did I!), but those text messages helped me so much.  That gesture said so much to me and I appreciated it in a way that my words didn’t allow me to say, until about a year ago.  Don’t interpret the silence of one in bereavement to mean they’re ok.  Don’t be in such a rush to be comfortable that you fail to support.  We will all need it at some point in our lives.

Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

Today marks eight years since you left this realm. It’s difficult to put my feelings into words. That’s because at any given moment, there seems to be a simultaneous exchange of starkly opposite sensations or experiences. It feels like it was just yesterday I was at the hospital with mom when we received the worst news ever–that you were gone. Yet, it feels as if I’ve been living without you for so long–too long if you want to really know the truth. I marvel at how far I’ve come, as far as grief is concerned. And just as soon as I pat myself on the back, waves of pain will come crashing down upon me. Like I’ve said, it’s difficult to put into words. I guess it’s best for me to start at the beginning and work my way up to today.

That initial moment after your passing stays with me. Hearing mom ask the doctor as she looked sadly upon us, “He’s gone, isn’t he?” and watching her face as the realization that you were indeed gone settled was heart wrenching. I remember screaming “No! No! No!” over and over again, thinking if I said it loud enough that I could reverse it and you wouldn’t be gone. I spent the next days of my life in a haze. One minute I could be seemingly fine, and broken down beyond repair the next. I settled into a grief-riddled depression after that. The pain was too intense. There was just no way I could go on without you. There was no way I could live another day without hearing you shout “What’s gwoings?” or “Hey Daughter!” It hurt too much to know that The Fizzle wouldn’t get to grow up with you. I didn’t want to go on. At least that’s what I thought back then. Today I know I just didn’t want to FEEL. The feelings were too intense. I wanted to die. Yes. That was the answer. That was the only way to stop this disrespectful attack of grief. So I wrestled with the idea of taking my own life. I concocted a few plans, but I could never seem to go through with any of them. Was that you stopping me? I’m not sure, but I’m glad that I didn’t go through with any of my plans.

So that left me with soldiering on. I just had to get up every day and keep living. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But I did it anyway. I didn’t feel like I had any reason to keep going, save for The Fizzle. She became my reason for living. Gradually, I was able to find another reason to keep going–to be a living demonstration of your legacy. After all, I’m your only child. I’m all that’s left of you. It was up to me to keep your name going. I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to keep your legacy going. I think I put more pressure on me than you did during my childhood. Who would think that’s possible? I stressed myself out. I heard your voice criticizing me every time I felt like I was failing. Then one day you came to me in a dream and told me to “Chillax.” You told me that I didn’t need to put this pressure on myself because you did your work and now it was up to me to do my own work. More than that, you let me know that your legacy isn’t your comedy, or your movies, or anything related to your fame. You told me that I’m your legacy. You told me that The Fizzle is your legacy and out of everything you’ve done, you were most proud to be my dad.

And that allowed me to let go. I had to let go of you. I didn’t want to because I thought letting go of you was me saying that I was forgetting about you. I thought it was disrespectful. But I realized that it wasn’t about letting go in a sense that I’m saying you are not an integral part of me. It was about letting go of the attachment that I had to the past. I couldn’t let go of the desire to hang on to what was. I wouldn’t be able to embrace anything new if I kept holding on to the past. I had to detach. After all, you had. You had transformed. You were no longer saddled with the baggage of the human costume. You were beyond it. I knew you were right. You did your work. And now it was time for me to do my own work. And I could do my work. I could do my work while walking upon the foundation that you so lovingly laid down for me. How blessed am I?

Daddy, I have been through so much since you left. There have been so many tears, so many doubts, so many regrets. But there have also been so much more. So many smiles, so many laughs, and so much love. And you have been a part of it all. It’s because of you I am. It’s because of you The Fizzle is. We talk about you at least once a day–not in an effort to not let go, but more so to make sure that we recognize that your death doesn’t negate your life. Thank you so much for all you did while you were here. And thank you so much for what you do from beyond.

I used to dread August 9th. I used to go through severe insomnia leading up to the day. I would become depressed. In an effort to combat it, I would try to do all kind of things that were in stark contrast to depression. I’ve gone skydiving. I’ve released balloons in your honor. I’ve danced. I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore. Now I feel like all of that was in a way celebrating your death. I had unknowingly created a shrine to the day. Your physical death took up so much space in my mental memory. Today, I acknowledge the day, but I don’t need to celebrate it. And therein lies the beauty of the birth, death, rebirth cycle. While it can seem like you are losing so much in death, you actually gain so much as well. Again, all I can say is thank you. Now I can’t lie. I miss you. I miss you a lot. But I can honestly admit that I love you more. As you used to say, my love for you is non-transferable and I love you from the top and the bottom of my heart.

Always,

Your Boops

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.

 

 

When I Reminisce Over You

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.

Daddy’s Little Girl

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.

I saw a video today of a young lady who I truly believe had great intentions. The topic was things a woman needs to do to keep her man. I actually began to check out at the moment I heard “how to keep your man.” However, I’m working on practicing the art of non-judgment as well as being open to opinions and thoughts that differ from mine. So I watched. I was not impressed. There were some things she said that I could sort of, kind of, maybe, quite possibly agree with. However, there were more than a few things that I could not. One of those things involved fixing your man’s plate because, as she said, a man should never ever have to fix his own plate. The other thing that rubbed me the wrong was the mention that a woman should be so in tune with her man that she anticipates his needs so that he doesn’t even need to ask for what he wants. She’ll already know. Because she knows, she will do get whatever he needs.

Now, I could say I didn’t like what she said and I disagree because of sexism. I could say that I have grown tired of the trite “Wam-Bam, Get Your Man!” “Don’t Go To Sleep, If It’s Your Man You Want To Keep!” messaging geared toward women which speaks on how they need to get and keep a man. I can say it’s ridiculous to believe that one should be able to–and consequently can–read another’s mind. As if one is not responsible for speaking up for their needs and wants. I could say how illogical it is to think that it is actually possible to “keep” another person, since realistically speaking, one cannot do such a thing. People remain in relationships; and faithful or unfaithful to their beloved; by their own volition. However, those are not my issues with the video I saw today, or the many others out there like it.

No, none of those are truly my issue. I dislike and disagree with the message because I do not like the generalized nature of the message. Human beings are far too complex to simplify their behavior. While I understand that a 7 minute video, which I myself share from time to time ; ), requires one to get to the point quickly and succinctly, I cannot get with a step-by-step instructional on how to maintain a relationship. There are far too many complexities to even attempt to surmise that there is a certain number of steps that will guarantee your partner will want to remain in relationship with you. Let’s say you do all of these so-called steps, yet you and your partner part ways for reasons unrelated to those steps. Would one be able to surmise that you failed?

There is also the fact that relationships end for a multitude of reasons. Relationships are simply our very own intimate class, where we are provided opportunities for growth, death, rebirth, and more growth. Once the growth has stopped, the relationship ends. You reach a point where it is made evident that you can go no further together because you have gone as far as you can. For some, the end happens with a physical death of the body. For others, it happens when there is a death of love, trust, or respect. And yet for others, the relationship can simply change course.

The other reason I disagree is because I really dislike the transactional view of relationships. I cannot get with the idea of I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-and only if-you-scratch-mine in a relationship. I say that with the full understanding that in practical terms, there is a bit of transactional play in relationships. However, I don’t think it’s the least bit healthy to enter into relationships with the mindset of I’ll only do my part if you do yours. I think that mindset is what has cost many relationships. I’m not quite sure what it is about romantic love that makes us mere mortals lose our grip. We place a tremendous amount of pressure on our lovers and on our relationships. I think it’s far better and simpler to figure out what you desire, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you are willing/unwilling to do within the relationship. Once you’ve done those things, then you can seek to find someone who will not only accept all of those things in you, but also take you and stretch you to your limits. Only then can you know and experience real love. And that, my friends has nothing to do with any steps or instructions. That is all an unspoken language that only the heart can speak and comprehend.

So that’s just my two little cents. I don’t say any of this to disparage the messenger or anyone who agrees. I like to chew on and digest what speaks to me and leave the rest. That’s exactly what I did today. And I wholeheartedly believe that she had the best of intentions. And there were many people who, based on their comments, agreed with her. It was touted as conventional wisdom. But as a wise man I’ve heard once said, “Conventional wisdom is usually neither conventional or wise.” And again, that’s just me.

Gratitude Day #6

I’m late. I’m late. For a very important date!  Well, not really. But I feel as if I shouldn’t have waited so long to post today.  I really meant to do this earlier. However, this California dreaming has got me in a different state of mind.  It’s been so nice to leave my cares behind–albeit temporarily.  So that’s yet another reason why I’m grateful today.  Interestingly enough, I’m no more thankful today because it’s Thanksgiving than I’ve been every day before.  I am just in a state of gratitude.  Life certainly hasn’t been a crystal stair (Oh Langston, you wordsmith you!), but it hasn’t been as bad as I’ve felt it’s been at some of my darkest moments. The great thing about it has been that when I’ve felt it wasn’t worth living, once I just kept living  (kind of like Dory told us to just keep swimming), the feeling passed and there was another feeling.  It’s made me understand that life isn’t about any one particular feeling, experience, or moment.  No!  It’s about the collective.  And just think, I’m not even done.  Yeah, as Tina Turner once sang, I think it’s gonna work out fine.  So here’s today’s gratitude.

Today’s gratitude is interesting for me because it is just so fitting.  I truly didn’t plan this–and yet isn’t that the beauty of life?  Since my dad has passed, the holidays don’t mean the same to me.  I don’t “celebrate” them as I once did.  I’m more about appreciating the moments which add to the collective experience of my life.  My dad was such a wonderful teacher, and the lessons haven’t stopped because of his passing.
On this day I am grateful for my dad. But today I want to say that I’m grateful for not just his life, but also his death. Of course I’m not happy that he’s no longer here. But after 5 years of mourning, I can see the beauty in the midst of the pain. It’s that beauty that I’m grateful for today. I’ve said before that my dad was my soul mate, and I really believe he was. I’m convinced we’ve shared many lifetimes together. I was and still am in awe of him. He was unlike any other person I have ever known–beside myself. When I look back now, it’s amazing to me how much we mirrored one another. From our sharp wit to our sensitivity (Yes believe it or not, The Mac Man was extremely sensitive), we were carbon copies. Now that I get that, I can totally understand why and how my father could work my last nerves better than anyone’s business. In his absence, that’s what I miss most. He was my button puncher, and I his. I’ll admit that I didn’t always understand him. He spoke in ways that seemed so far above my pay grade. He would speak in codes and riddles. He would tell me “You don’t understand what I’m saying to you right now, but one day you will.” I, being like any normal daughter, would mumble under my breath “No I won’t” and I truly thought that I meant it. But he, being the wise sage that he was, was absolutely correct. I didn’t understand much of what he said until he passed away. A veil of fear, uncertainty, and insecurity shrouded my vision of my life. It wasn’t until my dad passed that the veil began to lift. I can’t accurately describe it, but all of a sudden, I could see everything so clearly. And everything he’d ever talked about made sense or came to fruition.

When my dad was alive, I learned to play the supporting cast member. I stayed quietly (and happily) in the background. And I had no complaints. After all, he was the one who always wanted to be famous. It was just his personality. And as much as we were alike, I bought into the notion that we were different in that respect. I didn’t want fame. I didn’t want to be the center of attention. It’s amazing to me how unaware I was of my own self. After my dad’s death, I felt like I was catapulted into the spotlight. Suddenly there were cameras in my face. People were recognizing me. It was so uncomfortable and I resisted. In my resistance, I tried to make everything about him. I started working with his foundation, convinced that it was my duty because his legacy needed to continue and who else but his only child could take it on? What I didn’t realize is that was just my way of carrying out my same pattern of hiding. If I could make everything about my dad, I wouldn’t have to deal with myself. I would talk to my dad everyday. One day I was at home talking to him about how unhappy I was with the foundation. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I asked for his guidance. I pleaded for him to help me. That night he came to me in a dream. He told me how proud he was of me. He told me how much he loved me. And he told me that it was time for me to live for me. He said, “Boops, you’ve spent your whole life doing what you think everyone else wants you to do. Now it’s time for you to do what you want to do. This is your life. Don’t’ worry about me. I’m fine. I did what I needed to do. Now what did I tell you about letting folks steal your mojo? ” I realized then that my father’s legacy was/is in tact because of the work he did here on earth. His job is done. And above all else, his legacy will continue because of me. I am his legacy. Jasmine is his legacy. There’s nothing I need to do for him. I need to create my legacy. The next morning, I told my mother I was leaving the foundation. Once I did, doors started opening that I’d never expected. I received a call from some producers of a new TV show, which would be called Windy City Live. They asked me to audition, and I did. I was scared out of my mind, but I did it. After my audition, one of the producers pulled me aside and said, “You know, for someone without any experience, you’re a natural in front of the camera.” And while I didn’t get the job, they still continue to call me for appearances. More than that, they helped me to see how capable I am. A producer by the name of Robert Small wanted to do a documentary about my dad. While working on it, he called because he wanted me to conduct some of the interviews. And I did. While we were working together he told me “Je’Niece you are really talented. You have a real career in this industry if you want it.” I’ve traveled across the country speaking in front of audiences. I’ve been on radio. I started a blog. I’m not sure I would have been able to do any of this if my dad were still alive. It’s this very thing that I’m grateful for. As much as I miss my dad, I recognize that the transformation that I’ve undergone is a direct result of his passing. When my dad died, I was devastated. I felt like I lost so much. But now that I’m on this side of my grief, I can see the picture in a broader view. Sometimes things in our life are torn down in a most ugly and painful way in order to create anew something beautiful. That’s what happened to me when my dad died. Yes I did lose some things when he died, but now I know that I also found some things. I found my voice. I found my truth. I found myself. I’m not at all sure of what lies ahead of me, but I know that it is something(s) I would have never imagined possible. Beyond that, I’m no longer scared of the possibilities. Daddy, you know how much I love you. I am so thankful for the 30 years that we were able to spend together. You were the most amazing person I’ve ever known (besides Jasmine) and it was and still is an honor to say that I’m your daughter. I thank you for everything that you’ve given me–in life, and even in your death. I am because of you and that means more than I could ever say.

*Reading this today actually brought tears to my eyes.  Two years have passed since I wrote this and I must admit I’ve forgotten some of these things at times.  But I find my way back to the truth–or either my dad keeps bringing it my way. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s the latter..*

Gratitude Day #5

Well it’s day 5 and today’s gratitude is a bit deep.  It has to do with a secret that I carried around for much of my life.  I actually never even told my father before he passed away.  Yet today, I don’t feel the heaviness of it as I did in years passed. In m opinion, humble as it may be, that is a true mark of my growth.  And yet another reason to be thankful.

On this day I am grateful for my unborn child. I’ve not shared this with many, but almost 20 years ago, when I was 16, I got pregnant. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and disappointed. But most of all, I was just plain old scared. I was scared of what my father was going to do to me when he found out. He would have killed me—or come very close to it. And who could blame him? After all, I deserved to be punished. I was supposed to be a good girl and if I was pregnant, that meant I was having sex, and good girls simply did not do that. It also didn’t help that I’d begun having sex simply because my boyfriend wanted to. I wasn’t even remotely curious about sex. I just really wanted to be loved so when he showed me in a most non-discreet and obvious way where we were headed, I fell silent and complicit. I thought to myself, “Oh wow, I guess I’m going to have sex now.” And I did. I felt ashamed, but that was when and how he showed me attention and I desperately wanted his attention, so I continued to engage. I acted like I liked it. I acted as if I wanted it, but I didn’t and I died a little inside each time I succumbed to his will. I was in agony. Winding up a sobbing hot mess on the bathroom floor after reading the positive result on a pregnancy test only pushed me further into the abyss. I decided that I wouldn’t tell my parents. I’d get an abortion and never think about it again. But for the next 10 years, all I could think about was that baby and the horrible thing I’d done. The abortion only fueled the war I’d unconsciously waged against my already fragile self-esteem. I was in misery every single day.

A few days after the procedure, my mom found my medication. She’s a nurse so she knew exactly what the pills were. Too ashamed and afraid to tell her, I lied. I said they belonged to my best friend. She believed me—or at least she really wanted to. I felt so bad that I confessed to my friend. Being the wonderful friend she was/is, all she said was “Well, your parents already think I’m fast so a little less respect from them won’t hurt me.” Now it would seem that I’d been given a pass so that meant that I should’ve been ok from that point forward. But I wasn’t. I actually felt worse. In my mind, not only was I a fornicator and a murderer, but I was also a liar with no morals and a horrible friend. I deserved a fate worse than death. I deserved to be brutally punished over and over until I wished for death. And because I was so low, I didn’t even deserve to be relieved of my agony through death. For over a decade I rooted myself in this torment. I would be 27 years old, finding myself pregnant for the second time when I recognized that everything I was feeling was nothing but guilt and I had been wallowing in it. Before I gave birth to Jasmine, I thought about my unborn child every day. What would she/he look like? What would I have named him/her? What kind of mother would I have been? I didn’t believe I’d ever get the chance to become a mother. After all, I didn’t deserve it. When I found myself pregnant with Jasmine, I was happy but afraid. I was afraid every day of my pregnancy. I thought something would go wrong. I thought I deserved for something to go wrong. How dare I enjoy the beauty of motherhood after what I’d done to my first child? Once Jasmine was born, a peace wavered over me that said, “Enough. You must take care of this little girl who is here. It’s ok. You’ve punished yourself enough. Now stop this foolishness. It’s time to enjoy.”

I’ve heard it said that the soul of an unborn child simply waits until the next time to be born to their mother. So I don’t know if Jasmine was the soul waiting to be born through my unborn child at that time, or if my unborn child was another soul who has gone on to glory. But I do know, that I love that unborn child with all my might and I appreciate my unborn child. Through that brief encounter, that beautiful little soul has touched my life in a most amazing way. That soul taught me that guilt is a monster that serves no one. Guilt is a beast that robs of all joy. I wasn’t even able to get the lesson intended for me because I was stuck in my shame spiral. Through my unborn child I learned that guilt and sorrow are not the same. Sorrow says, “I messed up. I won’t do that again.” But guilt doesn’t. Guilt isn’t necessarily sorry for the act.  It simply feels bad about it because it knows the act goes against your moral compass.  Sorrow seeks to make amends.  Guilt just wants to feel better.  Guilt will continue to repeat the same thing and cry afterward having the nerve to say “Oh I feel so bad.” Yes I was sorry for my mis-steps, and I never did repeat the same mistake. However, the guilt is what allowed, even compelled me, to remain in the horrible cycle of punishing myself time and again. The guilt prohibited me from receiving and enjoying good. That unborn child also taught me compassion. Before I found myself pregnant, I judged young, unwed mothers. I looked down upon them. They were something to point at while I puffed up my chest and told myself how much better than they I was. The sweet irony of ending up just like them forced me to bake and eat my very own humble pie. While it wasn’t as sweet as I would have liked, it was very necessary and it was sustenance for my soul. I learned that we are all on our own journey and no one person is better than any other. We may cling to petty and superficial ties to make ourselves feel superior, but underneath all that bravado lays insecurity. But our insecurity is no excuse for having the audacity to think we can judge another. I’m still not convinced that I didn’t make the best decision for me at the time, but what I am convinced of is that it was all par for my course and I’m thankful for it. If my unborn child can hear me, I simply want to say that even though I didn’t birth you, I love you with all my heart and know that Mommy finally got the lesson. Thank you.

 

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