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A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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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 #3

It’s been quite refreshing to reflect upon my life with gratitude instead of regret. I’ve long since been of the belief that regret is a waste of time, energy, and emotion.  However, I’m not feeling as judgmental of it as I once did.  Instead, I’m just in a peaceful space.  I don’t feel the need to replay the events of my life thinking “If I had only . . . ” I’m ok with it all as it is.  After all, it’s jut life.  So onward to the gratitude of today.

On this day, I am grateful to the loneliness I experienced while growing up Mac. Many people (some names known, others not so much) have discarded me and hated me simply because I am “Bernie Mac’s daughter.” Many people assume that the fact that my father was famous means that I had an easy life with no problems and that simply is not true. Many people assume that I grew up  as this pampered princess and that also is simply untrue. My father’s road to fame was not on the express ramp. There were many years of hard work, disappointments, and ultimately successes. But those successes were his, not mine. I remember when things started taking off, he sat me down and told me “You are about to be hated. You’re going to be hated by people you know who claim to love you and you’re going to be hated by people who won’t even take the time to get to know you. And they’ll hate you simply because you’re mine. Now if I don’t take care of you they’ll say, That’s a damn shame Bernie Mac don’t take care of his daughter. But because I take good care of you, they’re going to hate you. They’re going to hate you because they’ll wish they had what you do.” Now I’ll admit that I heard him, but I didn’t really grasp what he was saying. I was (and still am) the type of person who has nothing but good vibes for others. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced jealousy over what someone has. So it was impossible for me to conceive that people would react this way. Oh my, was I wrong! He was right. I was ridiculed, bullied, betrayed (even by members of my own “family”) simply because my father was becoming famous. I was (and still am) reduced to nothing but Bernie Mac’s daughter. So that meant that I had no skills or talents of my own. I have never achieved anything in my own right. Everything I have, everything I have done has been handed to me simply because my father is Bernie Mac. Now to some, this may not sound so bad. But for a sensitive soul like me, it hurt like nobody’s business. I was already insecure and needy so when people became hostile toward me I internalized their issues and made them my own. I was desperate for people to just see Me: Je’Niece. Not Je’Niece who happens to be Bernie Mac’s daughter. I didn’t meet too many people who were willing to do that and so I was very lonely. Iyanla Vanzant has said that to be lonely is to be shut down from the thing you want. I wanted to be seen, but I wasn’t seeing myself. I wanted to be loved, but I wasn’t loving myself. Yes my father was famous and had all of these accolades, but what did I have? It would be well into my adulthood when I figured out that all the people who were reducing me to just Bernie Mac’s daughter were mirrors of the very thing I was doing to myself. And guess what happened once I became comfortable in my own skin? Yep, you guessed it! I began to attract people into my life who saw me and valued me. Now don’t get me wrong, I still encountered (and still do) those who hate me for being my father’s daughter, but the difference is today they don’t matter. So today, I’m no longer lonely because today I know that I am always in the company of at least one great person, and her name is Je’Niece. So, I am thankful for that time and those people and well, not to sound cliché, but here’s to all the haters.

 

The Struggle is Real . . . Or Is It?

The more I mature, the less I gravitate towards the idea of struggle. Now I know we live in a world that expects, and to a certain extent, respects—glorifies even, the struggle. I mean, it’s become a pop catch phrase: The struggle is real. Really real. We hear it in every day language: “You have to pay your dues.” “Nothing good comes easy.” “Hard work is the key to success.” Yet none of those things actually mean that struggle need be involved. Hard work doesn’t have to involve struggle. Paying your dues doesn’t mean you have to struggle before something works in your favor.

The word struggle means to contend with an adversary or opposing force; or to advance with violent effort. Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very pleasant to me. It actually sounds like it should be avoided. But somehow, we live in a world that actually respects a struggle. We love a story of struggle. It’s what we respect. And it doesn’t matter the area in which it lies. The athlete who overcame all the odds. The entrepreneur who struck it rich after facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. The woman who finally found love after being dogged and abused. It’s what we love! They overcame their struggles! Which is why we diminish the ones we feel didn’t struggle for it. The millionaire who we know inherited money, even if that trust fund baby used their money wisely to make more millions? Nah. Not so much. After all, they didn’t really do anything.

Years ago, when my father’s career was taking off, he sat me down and talked with me about the idea of struggle. He said to me,

“I need you to understand something. You are about to be hated. You’re going to be hated for no reason other than the fact that you’re mine. People will look at you and only know that you’re mine. And from that they will conclude that you’ve had it too easy. See me? They respect me because I started from nothing and built this. But you? Not you. You they will hate. They will talk about you. And they will do it because I take good care of you.” He went on to say, “The crazy thing is, if I don’t take good care of you, they’ll talk about me and say, ‘That’s a damn shame Bernie Mac don’t take care of his daughter.’ And that just shows you how crazy people are. But no matter what, nothing you do will be good enough. Because to the world, you didn’t have to work hard enough for it. You didn’t earn it.”

I’ll admit that at the time, I thought he was crazy. I had a somewhat Pollyana-esque view on life. I loved everybody and everything and just thought everyone else did too. But experience has shown me that my father may have known what he was talking about. Now, I’d probably never admit this if he were alive. However, that’s another experience that has changed me a bit. I don’t have a problem admitting today that he may have been right. And I know everyone doesn’t think this way. But I’ve encountered more than my fair share of people—including some relatives—who have this view that I’ve had it easy because my father is who he is. Those people have deemed me a spoiled brat who has never wanted for anything. That’s not the case. I’ve had my share of struggles. I’ve experienced heart ache. I’ve lost out on jobs. I’ve had my very own Judas’ who have stabbed me in the back. I’ve had money problems because let’s face it, my father was famous and rich; I wasn’t, and currently am not.

And even as I say that, I know there are people who will still think, “Oh please! Cry me river.” Well I can’t. I’m currently dehydrated. So there! (wink). Anyhoo, my point is that this notion of struggle is something I can’t get with. As I think over the struggles in my life, I must admit that I played a major part in each one. And perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled so much if I’d made the simple choice to swim with my obstacle instead of choosing to swim against it.

My dad finished our talk by saying,

“People love a ghetto story. And the fact is that we all have a ghetto story. Every person in the world has had their share of problems that they overcame. Overcoming the problems doesn’t have to be their whole life. So don’t you worry about what anyone else says. You have worked hard. And you know something? You will continue to work hard. That’s what will get you to whatever you want.”

My dad was a very wise man.  And while we didn’t always agree when he was here, we can definitely agree on this. Hard work is essential to get what I want in life; be it career, relationships, money, and spiritual enlightenment. I’m going to need to discipline myself, and work for it. But that work doesn’t mean I have to struggle. And I may have some challenges along the way. But again, challenges don’t have to mean struggle. And while I’m at it, let me just ask a few questions. Why is it easier to believe that the good you want can’t come with ease? Why must it come by scraping your knuckles against the concrete? And why must it be deemed less valuable if it doesn’t come complete with the struggle?

My soul rejects the idea that I must struggle for the life that I want. I believe in a benevolent, loving God/Universe/Creator (call it whatever you want). I believe that I am a Divine being created for greatness. While I have faced many challenges in my life, and know that I will face more; I recognize that the challenges didn’t necessarily have to be a struggle. Had I not resisted, but instead simply accepted the challenges, my life would have flowed so much more easily than it had. I know that in the future, if I simply ebb and flow with the tides, the future challenges won’t be a struggle. Believe what you will, but I for one believe that life is much more simple than we make it. I know that simple and easy aren’t necessarily synonymous, but life not being easy is still not equivalent to life needs to involve struggle. But that’s just me.

If Then, What . . . ?

Happy and Joyful Friday! I am sending you all kinds of ooey gooey love from the very depth of my heart. Not that I’m trying to inspire a living for the weekend mindset, I just think Friday can be a great day to recharge. People seem to cast their cares away on Friday, and I think it’s a great time to drop a little nugget that you can carry with you through the weekend (and Infinity and Beyond!). But that’s only should you choose to. And quite frankly, I do hope that you choose to.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance this week to tape a new Happy Friday video. However, I have a video that I recorded a few months back that I think will still be great. I ask myself a the question of what would my life look like if . . . ” While I make a point of being cautious of the if/then mentality. I think this was a great question to ask myself. I hope you’ve asked yourself the same. And even more, I hope that you’ve answered. If you haven’t yet, maybe you will after seeing this. I think it’s great to ask ourselves questions. And asking ourselves questions are great because it gives us the opportunity to actually answer ourselves. So that’s why I chose to ask myself this question. I think I even ask you at some point as well.

My only wish for you is that you live life with joy and power (the good kind, not the ego-driven stuff, cause that’s not really power anyway). And if this little blog of mine (and I’m gonna let it shine) can do inspire you to do so, then all is well with me. Have a fabulous weekend . . . And Life! Until next time! Muah!

Better Late Than Not At All

There is a tremendous amount of pressure that exists to “have it all together.” A huge part of having it all together lies in having a career. And if that pressure wasn’t enough, just wait cause there’s more!  Yes, there’s even more pressure to have all your stuff together by the time you reach adulthood–which  depending on whom you ask, can be anywhere between 18-30. The 20s can be an incredibly stressful time because many spend this time trying to have it all together while simultaneously figuring themselves out. There is a pervasive belief that one should definitely have it all together by the time one is 30. So it can be incredibly disheartening to find oneself at 30 (or beyond), still hoping to “arrive” at this place. I understand it all too well. I’m 37 and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. And for a long while, I placed a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to have it figured out. I expected that I should have this glowing career by now. And for a time, I felt inferior to others because I didn’t.  Well, I now know that one of my first missteps was operating under the should mandate. You know that mandate. That’s the one that dictates how you are to conduct yourself as an elite member of the Worldwide Federation of Adulthood.

Unfortunately, we don’t realize that we’re setting ourselves up for extreme disappointment by hanging on to this mandate. By believing and abiding by the shoulds, we make it easy to become disappointed, depressed, and down right despondent with life. I know, because I’ve been there. I was depressed for years, due in part to the fact that I hadn’t arrived yet. I finally forgave myself and allowed myself to recognize that there is no place to arrive. As a wonderful woman I know said, “I am in a race with no one but myself.” And while that doesn’t mean I have all the time in the world this physical life has to offer, it does mean that I do have some time to figure things out and make them happen. Circumstances are so temporary, and where I am today is not necessarily indicative of where I can be a year or so from now.

It got me to thinking. Since we are all more alike than we allow ourselves to recognize, I figured I couldn’t be the only person in the world to gain success or walk into my passion later in my life. And you know what? I’m not. So here’s a list of fellow late bloomers.  These are some people who are considered extremely successful in their line of work, and they all have a very common trait.  None of them actualized this so-called success until later in their life.

Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was in her 40s and she didn’t star in her famous cooking TV show until she was in her 50s.

Alan Rickman (film star probably best known for his role as Snape in the Harry Potter movies) didn’t get his first film role until he was 46.

Stan Lee wrote his first comic, The Fantastic Four, right before he turned 39. He didn’t start writing his most well known comic books until he was 43.

Toni Morrison published her first novel (The Bluest Eye) at age 40 (and she was a mother who was single).

Morgan Freeman got his break out role (Glory) when he was 52.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when “Little House on The Big Prairie,” the first installment of her highly popular children’s books was published. The last book of the series hit shelves when she was 76.

Rodney Dangerfield’s big break didn’t come until he was 46, when he was booked as a last minute replacement for an act that cancelled on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Vera Wang didn’t start designing clothes until she was 40, after she had “failed” at a figure skating career, and even as an editor at Vogue magazine.

J.K. Rowling was 32 when Harry Potter was published. And this was after she was rejected by 12 different publishers.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get an award-winning role (Jungle Fever) until he was 43.

While Steve Jobs formed a successful company in his twenties, he was booted from it. He didn’t find success again until he was in his mid thirties.

Actress Jane Lynch didn’t receive a noticeable role (Best in Show) until she was 43.

Harrison Ford was a carpenter who was hired to make cabinets for George Lucas before he was cast in the lead in Star Wars. He was 33.

Gene Hackman starred in his breakout role (Buck Barrow in “Bonnie and Clyde”) when he was 37.

Lucille Ball wasn’t popular until she created the “I Love Lucy” show at the age of 40.

Estelle Getty didn’t become a household name until she was 62, after starring as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls.

Kathy Bates was 42 when she starred in Misery and garnered mass attention for her acting skills.

While she’d been acting on Broadway for years, Phylicia Rashad didn’t gain notoriety as an actress until she was cast as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show at the age of 35.

Larry David was 41 when he collaborated with Jerry Seinfeld to craft one of the most iconic TV shows  (Seinfeld) in television history.

Phyllis Diller was 37 when she started her stand up career.

Duncan Hines was 55 when he wrote his first food and hotel guide. He licensed the right to use his name to the company that developed Duncan Hines cake mixes when he was 73.

My Daddy.  Oh how could I not add my Dad to this list?  My dad was 33 when he appeared on Def Comedy Jam for the first time.  He was 34 when he appeared the second time to perform his now famous “I ain’t scared of you!” routine. He didn’t begin his acting career until a year later at 35. And he was 42 when The Bernie Mac show made its television debut.

So if you’re reading this and you were feeling a bit down about your place in life, fret not. You are not alone. And you should count yourself fortunate.  You have some pretty good company with you.  I hope this helps you to remember that all is certainly not lost, as you are probably exactly where you need to be. Your place today is simply a stepping stone for you to create the life of your dreams.  And know that you absolutely CAN go on to create the life of your dreams. So here’s to us: The late bloomers. Better late than never, my friends. Cheers!

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