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What if Every Choice is the Right One?

Happy Friday! I believe I’ve told you before that I’m an introspective person.  I think a lot about who I am, who I want to be and what I want out of life.  While many may think that’s noble–and I’m one of those people, I have found that this is just another example of the pros and cons of life. What I have found in my existential quest to introspect is that I tend to think so much that it impedes my ability to act.  I don’t actually DO much because I’m so busy thinking about what I’m going to do, how I’m going to do and when would be the best time to do it–among other things.  That’s no way to live!  So I’ve become intentional about making choices so that I’m not finding myself stuck. It was really scary initially because there was this fear of making the “wrong” choice (I can also be a bit of a perfectionist).  But as I found myself deep within the throes of a crisis while trying to avoid making the “wrong” decision, I heard a big small voice tell me to calm down and simply choose and consider the question, What if every choice was the right one?  Ahhhhh . . .

The Ego . . . Friend or Foe?

compassion-857727_1920One morning my daughter woke up in a panic.  She said she was terrified. She’d had a bad dream and apparently this dream rocked her to her core. Even though she knew it was a dream, and even though she knew the most likely cause of the dream—she’d watched a scary episode of a TV show UniKitty, she was still afraid.  She didn’t want to walk around the house until the sun arose or until I walked around with her. First, I had to make sure that I turned on the lights before we entered a room.  I didn’t get upset with her though.  I happily obliged her.  I understood her fear.  I could remember being a child and being afraid of the toilet flushing.  I would have this overwhelming need to rush to my bed and hide under the covers before the toilet completed its cycle.  And while I knew it wasn’t a logical fear, it was one I held for many years.

But beyond that, I understood because in that moment I felt as if I was able to witness the ego in the flesh.  Many psychoanalysts and psychologists from Freud to present have defined and redefined what the ego is. The ego is essentially our identity that is constructed of the thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves.  In the spiritual sector, and other sectors for that matter, the ego can get a bad rep.  Check your ego and humble yourself.  Don’t be so egotistical.  Don’t let your ego rule you.  These are just some examples of the warnings we receive regarding our egos.  We’re sold an image of the ego as a savage dictator and brat, hell bent on feeding its own desires well past satiation.  And sometimes that can be true. Sometimes the ego can operate like a toddler.  It can want what it wants without any regard for the consequences.  It can be bratty.  It can be ruthless in its pursuit to feel better.

But what if it’s more than that?  What if the ego isn’t actually a dictator?  What if the ego is actually just like my daughter this morning? Simply scared and asking for attention? What if our ego is actually asking us to shed some light in the darkness to illuminate those shadow parts of ourselves?  We tend to look at ourselves through cloudy lenses. We grade ourselves with high marks when we do those things which are pleasing to us or when we feel good.  When we don’t feel as good, or we feel we’ve misstepped, we tend to fail ourselves.  Perhaps our ego is our loving friend who is guiding us to look beyond the surface of what we see and to see ourselves fully as we are, without judgment.  But since we humans can be more than a bit stubborn, we don’t always take heed at its first nudging so it has to work harder to get our attention. It has to get louder. It has to start kicking and screaming.  Those are the moments where we are at what we deem to be our worst.  Those are the moments we look as if we are out of control. We’re fearful, angry, short-tempered, arrogant, and maybe even more than a bit selfish.  Those are the moments that in spite of knowing the fear is illogical, we refuse to walk around our familiar home until our mom walks with us and turns on all the lights.  But instead of it being about us getting out of control, perhaps we can consider that it’s more than that and that’s just the moment when we have the opportunity to gain control and begin to take the steps to accept ourselves. It’s the moment we get to turn on the lights to see things and ourselves as they truly are and not as they simply exist in our minds, which gives us a chance to accept ourselves and grow.  That’s a pretty radical thought, isn’t it?

Ego, just a three-letter word and yet so interesting. If we did not have an ego, we would be lost. Feeding it too much we would also be lost.

Lida van Bers

 

You Can’t Always Have What You Want . . . Or Can You?

Happy Friday!  I’ve been having a fantastic week, as I hope you have as well.  I feel like there’s been one moment after one moment after another where I’ve experienced some wonderfully happy moments. I’ve laughed. I’ve shed some happy tears. I’ve had people be incredibly nice to me.  What’s more, I’ve actually been able to receive people being nice to me! That’s huge for me! I’ve lived much of my life on the defense, erroneously believing that the world was out to get me, that I would have to scrape my knuckles against the ground to get what I want. And that’s because deep down, there was this pervasive fear that I could not actually have what I want. I’d of course heard people say things like What you want also wants you or You’re the only thing standing between where you are and where you want to be. But hearing them say such things only incensed me and convinced me even further that they didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. It wasn’t until I had an epiphany of my own that the reason I didn’t believe them had nothing to do with any truth in my belief, but more because I was sabotaging my way to making my beliefs true.  Wow!

 

Forgiving and Learning

Happy Friday!  I have spent a great deal of my life hating myself and to be honest it hasn’t felt good at all.  But here’s what’s crazy about that.  For as horrible as it felt to hate myself, I continued to indulge in the hatred.  Part of the reason I hated myself is because I was judging and criticizing myself for all of my past mistakes. I was looking at myself through this lens of hindsight vision, expecting me to have behaved in the past the way I would currently  now that I am armed with all the information I have today.  It was incredibly unfair and abusive to do and while it has taken me some time, I have finally learned to release those wounds and forgive myself.  To be even more honest, it’s been one of the most glorious and freeing things I could have ever done.  I hope you have not been as unkind to yourself as I have been to me. But if you have, I hope you can forgive and free yourself and begin to love all the parts of you there are to love because you’re so doggone loveable.

 

What I’ll Tell My Daughter About Love

When I was of what my dad considered an appropriate age, he began talking to me about what to look for in men.  He gave me a lot of advice:  Look at his nails and hands, pay attention to his oral hygiene, make sure I don’t have to depend on him for anything.  He also advised me that when I was ready to make a commitment to a man to make sure that I liked him.  He warned me that “love” or the feeling of love at least can come and go, but liking the person would ensure that I’d be more likely to work on the relationship as people tend to be more kind to those they like.

Well, The Fizzle isn’t actually of dating age just yet. She’s only 10.  However, she is of age where she is able to bear witness to relationships and she has already formed the foundations of what she’ll carry with her when she forges down that road.  Of course there are more things I will tell her about romantic relationships based on what I’ve learned over the years.

  1. I’ll add a caveat to her grandfather’s advice of making sure to like the person.  I’d say pay attention to what liking someone means.  Don’t settle for someone you find likeable because there is a distinct difference between finding one likeable vs. liking said person.  A likeable person is one who you like well enough but not entirely. You have a list of a few traits you like about them but you have an equally long list, or longer, of all the things you don’t really like. But instead of being honest about the things you don’t like, you sweep them under the rug and tell yourself you can live with them.  Well he makes me laugh. I like how he dressesHe’s really good with kids. Or some other such trait.  Instead, ask yourself: Do I truly like this man as a person?  If the answer is no, then Simon Cowell him.
  2. Choose someone whose values are in agreement with yours.  So many people look for surface agreements. We love the same movies. We have the same taste in music. We both love pizza. Sure those things are wonderful, but they aren’t necessary.  What you want is someone whose view of the world is in alignment with your own.  You want someone whose values are compatible with yours and that takes more than having the same tastes in food or music.
  3. Instead of focusing on how much you agree, pay more attention to how well you disagree.  So many place a high emphasis on how many things they can agree upon.  While agreeing is great, differences are inevitable. You’re not going to ever live in the world by yourself. Choose someone with whom you can agreeably disagree with and who can do the same with you. That will be a better measure of how well you can get along than agreeing upon things.
  4. Ask yourself, if this person never changes can I accept him?  If this person never changes can I accept him? And you have to ask yourself these questions because when you sign up for a relationship, you sign up to be with the person as they are.  That means you can’t sign up based on the potential of who you think he may become. There may be things you want to change about him, but you have to be able to accept him as he is because he’s not going to change for you.  He’s going to be exactly who he is.  However, at the same time, we are constantly evolving as human beings.  So you have to be prepared for the change you either wanted or didn’t want.  Sometimes we ask for things and we find ourselves ill-prepared for them once we receive them.  You may find that you wanted your mate to become someone only to find you don’t like what he’s become once he actualizes that.  Or he may actualize into someone else that you weren’t expecting and you may find you don’t like it.  Either way, you have to make space for him to be who he is and to become who he will become.
  5. When considering attraction, don’t make a snap decision. So many people base attraction solely on the first impression of physical looks.  That’s such a tiny part of attraction.  Attraction wanes or increases the more time you spend with someone. You can meet someone who you deem to be a 10 based on his looks, only to find that he’s a 5 or less in every other area.  On the other hand, a modest looking gentleman can easily become a 10 if he has other qualities you find attractive.  Also, don’t listen to your friends or others about his attractiveness.  You are the only one who has to find him attractive.
  6. Don’t go for the “good” guy.  So many pass themselves off as good because they get good grades, make good money, or dress nicely.  Good is an arbitrary term. You have to get specific about what good means to you.  Women settle constantly for the good guy without getting specific about what that means.  Does it mean kind, compassionate, intelligent, hard-working, assertive, etc.  Do you want someone good with kids? Good with explaining things you don’t understand?  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Also, understand that whatever it is you want him to possess, it needs to be compatible with you.  You both must complement one another.
  7. This should be an add-on to number 6. Please, please, please don’t go for the nice guy!  Whatever you do, avoid getting with a man simply because he’s nice.  So many people place a high emphasis on being nice.  But don’t confuse nice for kind.  Nice isn’t actually admirable.  It isn’t authentic. Nice is what people do so that others think well of them.  Nice guys are the ones who are insecure and do things to seek approval from others.  The nice guy is the guy who does things he really doesn’t want to do and later resents you for it. Instead, seek out the kind guy.  The kind guy is the one who is confident in who he is and gives of himself because it’s simply in his nature. He respects himself and others and expects to be respected in return.  He doesn’t need you to make him feel better about himself.  Yeah, go for that guy. But make sure you’re that kind woman first so that you’re not the nice girl he fell for.
  8. Be clear about your expectations. And your wants. Don’t hold back. At all!  Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you want from your mate or the relationship.  That way, the person can tell you yay or nay on whether or not they can deliver or if they’re willing to.  And you are then free to decide how you’d like to proceed from there.
  9. Don’t take it personal when a person can’t or is unwilling to give you what you want. Sometimes people love and give the best they have but their best isn’t good enough for us.  You absolutely get to say what’s good enough for you. But you don’t get to assess the true nature of the person’s heart for you.  There’s a lot of advice that says when someone loves you they’ll do whatever it takes to be what you want/need. That sounds wonderful, but it’s so untrue.  We meet people at different stages of their lives and sometimes no matter how much someone loves you, they just may not be ready or capable to give you what you want/need. Doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have though.  It also doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
  10. No matter what happens in the relationship, don’t ever be ashamed or guilty for being yourself, for caring about the person or for showing how much you cared. Oftentimes, when a relationship ends, or when someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, or when someone is unable/unwilling to give us what we need/want, there is an emphasis of blame.  People tend to tell the hurt person it was their fault for choosing that person or that the hurt person should not have done all the wonderful things they did in the relationship.  That’s a tit-for-tat mentality that is a relationship killer.  Please know that you never ever have to feel any shame for loving someone with all you have and showing them that.  You’re only responsible for you.  What they do with your love is on them.

And of course, I’ll tell her to look at his nails and his teeth too cause her grandfather was on to something with that. But again, she’s only 10.  I’m sure there’s going to be more to come.  Now that I look at this list, I think I need to remind myself of these things.  What will you tell your children, or friends, or yourself for that matter about love?

Not For Play

Happy Friday!  I hope all is well in your world.  Normally, I like to keep it light and bubbly, but today’s topic doesn’t really allow for that.  I’m talking about depression.  It’s a very real thing and one that we too often sweep under the rug.  Either we have it and we don’t think anyone will help us so we wear a mask and act like all is ok until we crumble under its weight; or we see those suffering from it and deem them weak, or attention-seeking and tell them they need to “get over it.”  That’s now how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.  It’s one thing to not understand. It’s an entirely different thing to not care.  Just some food for thought.

 

Moving on to Peace

Hey! How ya doing? Good to see ya.  Glad to be here.  Sorry it’s been so long.  And let’s not forget, Happy Friday!  I know it’s been a long time.  And honestly, I really want to get better at being more consistent.  It’s been an interesting journey through life thus far.  I keep finding myself in these stages of growth and when that happens, I need to take steps back and process.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  But I had to share this video because I got a lot of feedback (unexpected feedback at that) about something I said on Wednesday.  Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of the day my dad died and I said something about that day and people really seemed to resonate with it so I felt led to share this.  I hope it helps whoever needs to hear it.  Enjoy your day and your weekend!

This Is Us Really Is Us

So can we talk about last night’s episode of This Is Us?  I have long since become a huge fan of the show and I am not ashamed to admit that I cry at every single episode. Every. Single. One. Each episode touches me in a way that makes me think they can’t possibly make me cry any harder than I did on the previous one.  Yet, they prove me wrong each time.  They did not fail to up the ante yet again with last night’s episode titled, Memphis.

In this episode, we found our beloved Randall taking a cross-country trip (even though he’d told his wife it wasn’t a cross-country trip) to take his ailing biological father William to his old stomping ground of Memphis.  It was significant for both of them because William was dying of Stage 4 stomach cancer and this is on the heels of Randall’s nervous breakdown from the previous week.  If you follow the show, you know that Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca because William and Randall’s mother were drug addicts, so William left baby Randall at a fire station.  They reunited in the first episode when adult Randall showed up unannounced on William’s door step.  Since then, we’ve watched their relationship evolve from strangers to a more intimate father/son relationship.

Last night’s episode was so moving for many different reasons but for me, it was a beautiful vision of what I wish I could have had to experience with my father.  Death is an interesting part of life.  We all know it’s going to happen, yet we are ill prepared when it does occur.  I loved that Randall was able to spend his father’s dying days with him, learning about him, growing with him, and even usher him into his dying breath.  It was so beautiful.  And it brought me to tears.  I was a blubbering mess in my bed.  I cried sad tears for Randall because he was losing another dad, and right when the getting was getting good.  I cried for William because he got to end his life on a happy note.  At the end, he told Randall that he didn’t have a happy life, yet the two things that were good to him were the person at the beginning and the person at the end.

And through all of my tears, I couldn’t miss that there was a part of me crying for myself. Entertainment can provide us with such a gift, and that is the ability to shine a light on some of the realest, most intimate parts of life.  I can think of no more intimate part of life than death and dealing with the death of a loved one–particularly a parent.  The writer of This Is Us gave us all (well let me speak for myself) me such a gift because it provided a glimpse into a real  moment of a relationship.  We got to see a father and a son have honest, yet difficult dialogue about life and death.  It can be so difficult to have those conversations, but I truly believe that they are so worthwhile.

While watching, I recalled the moment my father died and I wished I could have had those moments with my dad. For a long time, I felt that I was robbed of that moment.  My dad was feeling under the weather one day, went to the doctor and next thing I know I was getting a call that he was on a ventilator after going through sepsis.  He remained on that ventilator for three weeks.  He was sedated for the duration of those three weeks as well.  We never got a chance to talk.  I didn’t get to ask him questions or tell him how I felt.  The closest we came to that was during week 3 when he awoke for a moment.  He was still on the ventilator, so he couldn’t speak, but he mouthed the words to me, “I’m dead.”  I didn’t take him seriously because he would speak like that when he was sick.  I brushed it off, but he shook his head No and mouthed the words again.  He even went limp to show me what it would look like.  I laughed because I didn’t want it to be true.  While I always say I didn’t realize he was warning me, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I knew he was telling the truth.  But I wasn’t ready then to admit that so I dismissed him and hoped he was wrong.  He died two days later. He didn’t get to die surrounded by mom and me.  No, instead he died alone in a room with doctors.  He didn’t get the peaceful transition that William received.  He crashed several times, was revived each time, until that final one where he just would not return.  That haunted me for years.  I wanted closure. I wanted to have been able to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and tell him it’s ok.  Since I never got the chance, I have envisioned how our final conversation would have gone if we’d been given the chance.  I feel like it would have gone something like this . . .

Dad:  Well Boops, it’s been real. But I gotta go.

Me:  Wait, don’t go yet!  There’s still so much more I want to talk to you about.

Dad:  Now what did I tell you? Be strong. I’ll always be with you.  You’re going to be fine. Take care of my granddaughter. Watch your back and be strong for your mama.  I’m counting on you.

Me:  Wait, you’re dying and THIS is what you have to say to me?  Not I love you.  Not I’m proud, but be strong?

Dad: I just can’t do right by you. Can I, Je’Niece?  I’m dying and  I still just can’t do right by you.  I told you before, I’m a hard man and I don’t make no bones about that.  Now I said I gotta go.   

Me:  Well dang, fine!  But don’t be a stranger.  And since you won’t say it, I will.  I love you, Man.  

Dad: I love you more.  

But I never got that moment. So I’ll have to live vicariously through Randall and William. It was a beautiful moment so I can live with that.  Thank you to the writers of This Is Us.  I cried some of the ugliest tears I’ve ever cried, but you gave me such a gift with each tear.

Just Don’t Say Nothing

I don’t like funerals.  I actually can’t stand them.  My people have been notified that there is to be no funeral in my honor when I leave this realm–lest they suffer through me haunting them all the days of their lives.  And I will too.  I just never liked the feeling they evoke.  I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I just feel like death is not sad for the departed.  It’s sad for those of us who remain.  Some have gotten the bright idea to call a funeral a home going service. Yet, that hasn’t seemed to change the feeling a funeral elicits for me.  I do my best to not attend funerals because I hate them so much. But when it calls I go.  A very close friend of my family recently passed away.  She was so close to our family that she actually felt more like family than some people I’m actually related to.  Her funeral was held over this past weekend and I did attend.  I attended to support those who remained and I was left with the same feeling I always have. I just don’t like funerals.

However, I’m not really talking about funerals today.  Today I want to talk about how many of us call ourselves comforting those who are bereaved.  I’ve been on the receiving end of it and I have to say, people you aren’t very good at consoling. And you know what? It’s ok.  There really is nothing that you can possibly say or do to ease the pain that death elicits.  So don’t try. Just offer a hug, a pat on the back. Food. Food is good.  But there are just some things that we need to stop saying to those who are bereaved.  I wrote a list and here it is.

  1. Be strong. What in the hell does this mean? What do you mean? Do you even know what you mean?  Why are you telling me this?  How exactly do you “Be strong” after a loved one dies any way?
  2. This too shall pass.  You don’t say? Isn’t that exactly why I’m sad, because my loved one passed away?
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  Is this really supposed to make me feel better?  I honestly don’t give two dead flies smashed as to what the reason is my loved one is now dead.  All I know is that they are dead and I don’t want them to be. Like Rick James with Charlie Murphy’s couch, Eff your reasons!
  4. Don’t cry.  Now this is one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard.  I’m hurt. I’m in pain. What do you do when you’re hurting and in pain? You cry! Why are you telling me not to cry?  What do you suggest I do then?
  5. I know how you feel.  No you don’t. And it’s ok that you don’t.  You may be able to empathize with me and that is awesome.  While I’m hurting too much to grasp that right now, it is nice to know that. However, you don’t know how I feel.  You know how you felt when your loved one passed away.  That’s not the same.
  6. At least they’re not suffering anymore.  I get that this is an attempt to console and I actually understand it. But in the immediate moments after experiencing the death of a loved one, I don’t want to hear that.  At least they were STILL here to possibly get better.  Look here, death is a most rude visitor who doesn’t give two sh*ts about suffering or not. When it’s time to go, death is taking  you.  I don’t feel better right now hearing this.
  7. Think of all the good times you shared.  Yes, I have. And that’s exactly why I’m so sad right now.  There will be no more good times to share.
  8. Well think of *insert Momma, daughter, best friend, spouse,etc.*  They’re suffering more right now.  What the hell? This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  You’re actually comparing the pain between all of us who are in bereavement?  For why?  There is no prize to be won in maxing out pain or suffering. We are all more than just the one role we fill in another’s life.  To quote R.E.M., “Everybody hurts.”
  9. They’re in a better place.  I really do understand why this would be a go-to. But at the moment, I don’t want to hear this.  All I know is that my preferred place for them would be right here and they are not here.
  10. And finally, the dreaded How are  you?    Why are you asking me this?  How in the hell do you think I am?  I’m sad, mad, stunned, numb, crazy, and a host of other emotions I can’t even put into words right now.

I don’t say any of this to be judgmental.  I do believe that people mean well when they say these things.  Death brings with it a lot of uncomfortable feelings.  And we don’t like being uncomfortable. The most logical thing to do when we feel discomfort is to find (or try to find) some way to ease the discomfort.  I get it.  But when it comes to death, there is no way around the discomfort.  You can only go through it.  Furthermore, as I’ve said earlier, there really is nothing that you can say or do to ease the pain one feels when they’re loved one has passed. They’re not looking for you to anyway.  So just offer a hug, “I’m sorry for your loss,” a prayer if they allow.  But don’t feel compelled to offer anything if you have nothing. Your presence alone is a gift.

This is just a brief list of things I remember hearing and things I witnessed being said at the funeral the other day. Can you think of anything that should be added to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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