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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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maturity

It’s Just the Fullness of You

Happy Friday!  We are now in the midst of the holiday season.  Contrary to the myth, depression and suicide are not on the rise during this time. However, that doesn’t mean that loneliness, sadness, and strife don’t exist during this time.  Sometimes I think it gets highlighted more because this is a time that is supposed to be all about gathering with loved ones.

And therein lies something about the way we connect with one another.  We tend to let a day hold more significance for our relationships than we do the cumulative moments.  We tend to get irritated with our loved one–and people in general–just for being human. We expect them to think and act the way we would. But we forget that they are not us and they do not have the same life experiences and world view as we.  I think it’s time for us to have fuller, deeper, more rich connections with ourselves and one another. But in order to do that, we have to get real with ourselves and with one another about what really happens when we don’t like something.  That means we can’t just react or lash out. We have to be mature–even when we don’t want to.  I think we should give it a try. What have we really got to lose?  Glad you asked! Truthfully, not a doggone thing.

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.

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.

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!

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.

 

Gratitude Day #4

While I didn’t get to post my gratitudes for the past 2 days, I must say I’m still feeling quite grateful.  My daughter and I have gone to visit my best friend who moved away in August.  I’ve known her since we were 4 years old.  She’s been an integral part of my life throughout its duration.  I was quite happy when she received the amazing job opportunity in August–which is what prompted her move.  I was so excited for her and her son (who is also my amazing god son).  But, I can’t lie.  I was sad for me.  I was sad that my best friend was gone and I would no longer have the opportunity to just run by and sit on her couch while we talk about everything and nothing.  I was so excited to see them when they pulled up at the airport that I burst into tears.  It’s been great spending time with them.  And my Fizzle is so happy to see her “brother.” We’re reunited and it feels oh so good.  So this feel good feeling that we’re all feeling is only inspiring me to continue on with the gratitudes. So here we go.

On this day I am grateful to my mother. When I was growing up, my security relied on my parents. In my mind, we were a Love Triangle–our own Holy Trinity if you will–with my dad at the top, and me and my mom at the bottom. I didn’t want much if we weren’t all together. As the years went on, my mom and I developed an incredibly close relationship. I would tell people she was my best friend. I would nurture her and look out for her. I never told her, but I’d even get scared in the middle of the night that something might happen, so I’d get up and check her breathing. Mother-Daughter relationships are extremely complicated and can be incredibly volatile. Yet somehow, my mother and I were able to navigate through the explosive Mother/Daughter realm with ease. We were the amazing dynamic duo. We were the envy of mothers and daughters everywhere. I had several friends chastise their moms with cries of “Why can’t we be more like Je’Niece and her mom!” Of course our relationship would irritate the hell out of my dad and he’d say things like “Your mother is going to hurt your feelings one day.” I thought that was incredibly odd and quite rude to say, and I couldn’t understand why he’d say that—until he passed away

An incredible shift took place in our relationship. A distance I’d never known grew between us. It felt quite hostile. All that mushy gooey-ness we shared seemed to dissipate before my very eyes. It was incredibly hard for me. As an only child, I’d built my identity on my parental units. Now my father was dead and it seemed that my mother was (in a way) dying to me as well. I would ask if I’d done anything, did I remind her too much of my dad, and of course she would say no. But she wouldn’t offer me any thing else. We went from talking for hours every day to not talking—sometimes for weeks at a time. She had her story she was into about me and I had my story that I was into about her. It was so bad that when she got engaged, I may have been the last person to find out. She told people at the spa we both went to before she told me! I was crushed. I don’t do well when my feelings are hurt. I retreat. To others, it appears that I’m angry, but I am not. I am simply hurt and unable to move forward. It’s a simple defense mechanism, but this time I made an exception. I chased my mother. I mean I ran after her until there were holes in my proverbial emotional shoes. I couldn’t sleep or eat and it seemed like the harder I chased, the faster and the farther she ran away. Until this day we have never come to a true conclusion as to what prompted the shift. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I am so thankful that it occurred, because it forced me to recognize some heavy truths. While I love my mother with one of the purest loves I’ve ever felt, we had an extremely co-dependent, slightly dysfunctional relationship. My father was the center of our universe and much of our bond centered on an Us vs. Him set up. We weren’t very honest with one another either. I think we both believed my father to be a brutally honest person who would not dare hesitate to hurt your feelings in the name of “Truth” so we wouldn’t give that honesty to one another. We’d give the sweet, syrup, sugar coated version of what we thought the other “needed” to hear. I think we both also bought into the notion that the only “important” person in the family was my dad. Even before he became famous, he had this electric energy that just commanded attention. We both knew we were important, but just not as important as he. So we settled into this coddling type of relationship with one another. Neither one of us living to our true potential, but telling each other that we were. When my dad passed away, we didn’t need that anymore. We needed to move into something that would better serve us. But I didn’t get that. Hell, I didn’t want that! I felt like: Dammit there has been enough change in my life (with my dad’s death and my divorce) and if I couldn’t have at least this one relationship the way it’s always been what the hell was left for me?! But I realize now that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it had to happen as it did because I wouldn’t have gotten the memo any other way. Had she not stepped away from me, I probably would have moved in with her and become a spinster. I would have played safe, put all my focus on her. I would have asked permission to make any type of move in my life and only done so if she wanted me to. I remember her coming to me after my dad died. She said, ‘I had a dream that you moved to California with Jasmine and I was so hurt. I just couldn’t believe that you would do that to me.” I really did want to move to California, but I took what she said as a warning and decided, “OK well I won’t do that.” That shift in our relationship showed me that having boundaries in our relationships is one of the healthiest, loving things we can do for the ones we love. That shift in our relationship healed the mother/daughter bond and allowed me to be a better mother to my daughter. Otherwise, I probably would have repeated the very same pattern with Jasmine. Regardless of my initial reaction, that shift was the best thing that ever happened to us. We both have gone on to the paths we were meant. I now know that better days are ahead of me and that I am the only person required to give permission in my life. And while our present relationship is not what it was, I don’t love or appreciate my mother any less than I did then. I may actually appreciate her more because she helped me find my strength. So in some ways, once again, my dad was right because my mom did in fact hurt my feelings. But whether she meant to or not, she made me a better person, Woman and Mother. So thanks Mom. You were and still are a great teacher.

Choices . . . Choices . . . Choices

There was a time in my life when I could be indecisive.  Hey, I can freely admit this.  Having several options before me seemed to paralyze me–rendering me incapable of making a decision.  I would feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. I would hem.  And when I was done hemming, I would haw.  When that was done, I probably hemmed again.  I would do this until I spun myself into a frenzy.  I’m someone who tends to look at every encounter and moment as one that is capable of teaching me something. So when looking at the decisions before me, I consider all the angles. On the one hand, I find it helpful. But that other hand? On that bad boy, it causes complications. Excessive analysis leads to paralysis. At some point, in the words of Lil Jon, you’ve just got to ” . . . get out of your mind,” and DO something. Therein lied the rub for me. As I’ve said, I’m someone who believes that any encounter or thing (however pointless it may appear) has the ability to teach me something. However, I didn’t imagine that I’d receive a pivotal Aha! moment while sitting at Chili’s with my daughter.

Allow me to go Sophia from Golden Girls on you for a moment.  Picture it. Homewood, IL, a small south suburb of Chicago.  There’s a shopping center, and at the end of that shopping center, there’s a Chili’s restaurant.  My daughter and I sat at the second booth from the entrance.  We sat down and I began to peruse the menu.  I immediately became overwhelmed by all the choices.  I stared at the menu for minutes, unable to decide what I wanted to eat. When our server arrived to take our order, I asked for a few more minutes because I was not quite ready to make a choice.  Our server returned minutes later, and I was still unable to decide.  He returned a second time, and I found myself still in the throes of making a decision. Finally, my server asked, “May I ask what are your top two choices?”  I told him, to which he gave me his recommendation.  He then added, “If you don’t like it, we can always change it and get you something else that you’ll like.”  Woah! Mind. Blown. You mean to tell me that I can actually change my mind?  I do not have to chain myself to one choice.  Shut the front door! And while you’re at it, close the back one and all the windows too!

Now I know this was a truly simply example. But it got me to thinking.  How many other times in my life have I either stalled on making a choice, or simply failed to make a choice; thereby simply choosing to go on default mode?  I’ve done it more times than I actually care to remember.  And I’ve done it in some major moments in my life.  I realized my marriage was no longer serving me.  But I was too afraid to make the choice to walk away, so I stayed far longer than I needed and suffered far longer than I needed (causing my ex husband to suffer as well) because I was too afraid to make a choice.  I needed to take legal action years ago against someone very close to me, but I couldn’t make the choice.  I agonized over it and suffered over the choice that I couldn’t make.  I’ve had friendships that I realized no longer served me. But instead of choosing to walk away, I stayed in those relationships; continuing to get annoyed by the people for being exactly who they’ve always been.  And I did it simply because I couldn’t bring myself to make a choice.

In each case, I felt as if I had no choice.  What I failed to recognize was that there was always a choice.  I may not have liked my options, but there were options all the same.  I had a tendency to put the weight of the world upon my shoulders if I made a choice.  You know, like the world would somehow stop spinning on its axis simply because I chose to walk away from a toxic relationship, or chose to stay home instead of cashing in on an invitation.  Or I would tell myself that I was ruining lives.  You know, like I was really THAT powerful.  Why was I causing myself so much difficulty over a seemingly simple task?

As if this revelation wasn’t enough, I found myself sitting in my counselor’s office, lamenting over something (I can’t even remember now.  See, that’s how important it was!) I was going on and on, and she looked at me with such empathy and said, “Well, Je’Niece, try it out and see what happens.  If you don’t like it, you can always get off the ride.”  WOAH!  There it was again. I can actually make a choice, and then if I don’t like the choice, I can make another choice! Are you kidding me?  I felt that was confirmation of the lesson.  I’d heard it twice in one week.  There was no need to try to deny it.  I needed to get comfortable with making choices in my life and stop living on default (which in itself is a choice, but I didn’t realize that).

I know at some points in my life, I acted upon default simply because I didn’t feel that I had the right to make the choice.  I would feel guilty for feeling the way that I did, because again, I somehow had the idea that I didn’t have the right to feel whatever I was feeling.  Perhaps my inability to make a choice was in part due to my failure to break away from my conditioning.  I mean, we’re not taught that we can actually change our minds.  At least I wasn’t. I can remember being told on numerous occasions how I had no right to change my mind; AND if there was any mind changing going on, it would be done for me.  So is there really any wonder as to why I was incapable of making my own decisions as an adult?

But this isn’t a lamentation about my upbringing.  No, this is a revelatory moment.  One simple encounter caused me to recognize and break a pattern I’d been engaging in for the greater part of my life.  Glory!  I’m free!  Yay me! But, and this is a pretty big but–but I like big buts *cue Sir-Mix-A-Lot*  It’s a daily practice.  And it can be so easy to shift into default mode. But each time I’m tempted to go on default, I remind myself that I am the most powerful person in my life.  I remind myself that I am the only one who gets a say in how my life looks and feels. And then I choose.  Even if I don’t like my options, I choose.  And I choose because to do anything else is me failing to show up for myself.  And I’ve come too far to be a no-show in my life.

Who Do You Think You Are?

When I was a kid, I had this image in my head of who I would be when I reached my 30s.  I thought I’d have it all together.  Now, don’t ask me what it all was; and don’t ask me how I was going to have or put it together.  That’s besides the point.  The point is that I was going to do the damn thing.  So you can imagine my shock and dare I say, embarrassment, to find myself in my mid 30s, divorced, raising my child alone, unemployed (with degrees), and having the nerve to still find myself figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

I called shenanigans on this here Life thing.  I mean I felt seriously bamboozled.  I graduated high school with a 4.1 GPA.  And yeah, ok while I graduated from undergrad Thank You Lawdy, my GPA in my major was a 3.7 (so there!).  I even graduated grad school with a 3.66 GPA.  So didn’t that mean I was entitled to some type of reward?  And I’m not talking about that piece of paper they give you on the stage.  So where was my damn award? Dammit! *Cue Florida from Good Times*

I was pissed.  I felt led astray. Run amuck.  I didn’t land on Plymouth Rock! Plymouth Rock landed on me!  Oh wait, that was Denzel as Malcolm X, but I think you get my point.  My point is that I was angry. And I was angry for a good reason. This isn’t what my life was supposed to be!  After all, I’m me!  And that’s when it hit me.  So what.  Just who in the hell did I think I was?

My dad would say quite often to me, “It’s not what the world owes you.  The world don’t owe you nothing.  It’s what you owe the world.”  I lost track of that somewhere along the way.  I got full of myself and started living on auto pilot, expecting the world to give me things.  Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to work hard.  I was willing to be kind and compassionate. But I was still expecting a reward for being and doing those things.  So a little piece of me would run and build a piece of a wall whenever I would experience disappointment.  I worked hard but didn’t get the A?  Lay a brick down.  I was loving and got rejected?  Slather that cement and add another brick.  The job, that person didn’t turn out to be what I wanted?  We’re going to need some more bags of bricks and cement over here guys!  I built that wall until one day I realized there was no one on the side of it with me.  And I had no one to blame but myself.  Initially, that depressed the hell out of me.  I was downtrodden.  I felt hopeless and full of despair. Then I realized what a treasure that is!  First, I realized that no one abandoned or rejected me.  I abandoned and rejected myself.  The people in our lives are only mirrors reflecting us back to ourselves.  So there was that.  Then I got excited because I figured if I’m the one responsible for this all, then I have the power to change it.

Wow, How simple!  And you know what?  I’ve been doing just that. And you know something else?  It’s been difficult.  It is certainly not easy to take the reigns of my life and steer them in the direction I wish to head.  Simplicity and ease are not synonymous.  While it may not be easy, it is quite doable.  And the rewards that I have been desperately seeking for most of my life are now mine.  Rewards like peace, confidence, self-love (and after all, self love is the best love).  I gave them to myself the minute I stopped looking for them to come from an external source.  Now that I’ve chosen to look within, I can get on with the business of giving something back to the world.  I can now contribute the things that only I can contribute in the way that only I can contribute them so that when I leave this place, I can leave knowing that I did what I could and what I wanted.  And that is the task before each of us–to give the world what only we can give without needing and wanting the world to give us something in return.

So ok, my life doesn’t look like what I wanted it to look like. But come on, why would it?  I was holding on to a vision I crafted when I was 8.  I mean, who does that?  It had to change.  And that’s okay.  Right now, I can say that while it still doesn’t quite look as I would like, I have and I am taking the steps to get it where I want it .  After all, I don’t need the world.  I just need to be me in it.  

So what about you?  Who do you think you are?  And just what are you going/and willing to do about it?

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