It’s been raining a long time, but for the sake of this latest bleeding heart entry, it’s been 30 days. It was raining when my partner in crime threw me out. I had no umbrella that night, so it rained literally and figuratively on my world. The only thing I understand is that my fear of this day became a reality. Fear followed me with every mistake, argument, late arrival, forgotten event, holiday, celebration, or purchased item. My fears came true. A self-full-filling prophecy. My friend discarded me. The difference between the past and today is I realize I have to walk alone and move forward. So let me be honest, the fear of not having the family I dreamed of has been plaguing me since 1989. When my false sense of security and protection shattered, I clung to whatever was close to me to not drown. My siblings, my friends, books, the honor roll etc. Whatever I could cling to and throw myself on, I did. So much until I choked the life out of everything I touched. I am just realizing that I have to walk this journey alone. I may have company at times, but I am not entitled to a friend, a companion, or even a dog to walk with me on this journey. The fear of the darkness has gripped me like a boa constrictor around my neck and my heart. I can’t make excuses anymore for what I didn’t get. And up until last month, I believed I had been saved from being alone. I had finally found the safety and support I craved. The thing is, I knew that was a lie. I knew it was what I told myself, but the truth is, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I had “defect” stamped on my forehead. I was the green duckling that never fit in. Anywhere. I felt like an impostor who held this image up to the world in hopes that they’d say, “She’s normal, she’s just like us”. The truth is, I’ve never been, I am not, and I’ll never be NORMAL. There is a hardness with my walk, and a vacant look in my stare. Those are defense mechanisms to ward off danger. I am actually very soft and my eyes are my mood ring. I am rough with my hands because I am heavy handed. I never felt I had pretty feminine hands, so I attacked the world in other ways. I find it hard to trust, and I am always worried someone is going to try to hurt me if I don’t keep up my defenses. I’ve been unforgiving, hypocritical, and entitled. So now, here I am again…alone. The place I sold my soul not to be. Alone. The only difference this time is I feel relieved. I felt like my life was a jar teetering on a high unstable shelf, and it came crashing down on the floor last month. I was running to catch something and I just stopped. I let what I was chasing go off into the distance. I just stopped. After standing in the rain, I picked up my bag and began walking in another direction. And for the first time in years, I slept for 7 hours straight. I don’t have to prove myself anymore. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and that is good because from what I know, that’s God’s job anyway. Being alone is scary and it is sad. But being alone means I get to explore my own interests without the self-doubt eating away at my stomach lining. I can feel my blood pressure going down because I won’t have to bow my head in regret and failure another day. I don’t have to keep checking my phone in fear and sadness because someone didn’t call back or call at all. I don’t have to feel bad because I didn’t call to show that I care because I fear that if I don’t, you’ll say I didn’t care. All I have to do is just be. I’ve ran for years for the illusion of belonging. I’m so tired. There is a pattern emerging, and I believe it’s because I’ve held on too tight out of fear of abandonment. Fear that the end was near. Well I’ve seen the end, and shortly afterwards, a new day emerged anyway. My successes and failures don’t stop the sun from shining. My broken heart doesn’t deter the rain. But I do know I feel relief. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be the type of person worthy of love and adoration through my accomplishments. Being “good enough”. That was a fool’s errand. What happens when I just do what’s best for me? What happens when I disappoint others and they walk way? The sun comes up and the rain continues to fall. I wonder what it will feel like to get 8 hours of sleep for a year? Let’s take it one day at a time. I’ve been searching for rest and peace for my entire life. I have no idea if I am on the right path, but I know I’m not chasing an illusion anymore. I am who I am at this moment in time. I am not my past.
I went on an apology spree because this part of the Lord’s Prayer had backfired, “Forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. I realized I had unhealthily been blocking myself from moving on by holding grudges. I remember leaving my friendship with my best friend from high school in shambles. I just sat in the pain until it calcified…for 18 years. By then, I had already been let down and thrown away so much that the fact I didn’t make it last with my best friend was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why bother? I was just a high school friend, and high school was over right? I had a habit of doing this because I held the belief until recently that unless I was seen as important or valuable to someone, I wouldn’t be able to settle conflict and move on from it. I kept looking to others for my price tag. How valuable am I? What am I worth? No matter what, I always saw $0. Letting other humans determine my worth has been my downfall for years. If I determined I wasn’t valuable to the other person, those were the two choices I picked from. I may have spoken up, but by the time I did, I was a volcano of anger, or an open wound of pain. I sucked it up and acted like it never happened, or walked away. Sucking up past problems builds resentment, and resentment is dangerous. I didn’t think I was worth the conflict resolution in my family or friends eyes. I developed defense mechanisms that shut my soul up in a concrete fortress. I kept looking outward for gratification, instead of working on my own skeletons. I realized I had been a hypocrite, and couldn’t be upset at someone not forgiving me when that is what I had did for years. I hadn’t learned the art of maintaining boundaries with people I loved. I hadn’t learned to value myself first and foremost. When I left it to everybody else, the price kept changing. I know what God says about me, but I turned away from Him too. I thought, “Well if that was the case, if I’m so “fearfully and wonderfully made”, why did my father leave? Why did I put my hand through that window? Where were you?” I was either on or off, hot or cold. That is no way to live. I am free to forgive others, and I am free to forgive myself. I had been holding so much in, that my blood pressure shot up last year. I just swallowed the pain like I’d been trained to do. My old habits and ways have been survival tactics that wrecked havoc on my life. I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I am free to be me. Me, without all of my fears. I have to let all of the pain go. I am giving myself permission to move forward. I have to drop offenses as soon as they happen, because I cannot carry a hardened heart. It’s okay now. I am allowed to breathe. I have to take out the garbage and declutter my mind multiple times throughout the day, not just once every ten years.
I have reached a fork in the road. One where I could continue on the road I am on, or take the other road and follow my dreams. My dreams seem impossible. They seem far and damn near impossible. When I close my eyes to go to sleep, I can feel my dreams come alive as real as wind on my face. When I drift off to sleep, I am having conversations with family and friends, living in a house I’ve never seen before, wearing pretty clothes, and laughing out loud. In my dreams, I can taste the food, and feel kisses on my lips. My silent hopes come to me in my dreams at night. For a little while, I get to live the life I dream of. My family is getting along and my friends are by my side. We are laughing until the sun begins to rise through my blinds. My dreams vanish, and I am back in reality. My stomach sinks. Last week, my friend told me I have a wild imagination. She said that the things I believe are not based on reality. I have no evidence to back up my theories, and I waste energy on what doesn’t exist. It hurt my feelings. I do have a wild imagination, but I also have discernment. After making many mistakes over the years, and making decisions that didn’t have my best interest at heart, I have injured my spirit. I stopped believing in myself. When my heart whispered to me what I needed, I ignored it. This became very evident to me when I put someone’s feelings above my own real pain. Ignoring me had become a default, and I was getting sick of myself. I was upset that others didn’t see that I needed them, when the truth is I didn’t show up for myself. I disregarded my own pain for the sake of appeasing or avoiding conflict. I’ve done this a lot in my life. Either I’d have a knee jerk reaction to pain, or I would shut down. Neither of these behaviors has yielded me much success in my life as it relates to relationships. I loved others, but forgot to love myself. The lack of love I have for myself caught up to me. I realize it is up to me, and I’m not just giving lip service. I’m sad, disappointed, but hope has returned to my heart. I daydreamed today, and saw glimpses of my dreams. I pray to God that my dreams are moving from the shadows and into daylight. I wonder what loving myself looks like. I lived my whole life concentrating on how what was going on outside affected my insides. I spent time pointing fingers or demanding love I didn’t give myself. This is a gory confession, but it’s real. I want to take the other fork in the road. I want to walk alone with God on this journey. I may have company, but I am not going to demand it anymore. If I am granted a friend as I walk down this road, I’ll thank God. If my friend needs to go on a different journey, I’ll thank God until I see them again. I’ll be okay. I fought tooth and nail because this road scares me, but I want to follow my dreams. I have to take the road less traveled. I don’t want to just get happy off of a bible verse. I am living in peace and I am living in love. I am struggling with this new walk, but I have to forgive myself because I’m learning to love me. This dream is now a reality.
What do I mean by pushing past “Well…”? “Well…” is when I proclaim, “Well at least I’m not out here shooting everybody!”; “Well at least I didn’t eat the whole cake!”; “Well at least I didn’t cuss her all the way out!”. It means cradling myself with mediocre excuses. Well is comprised of the excuses I make when I am called out for my behavior, personally convicted, or expect kudos for not being “rock bottom” awful. I have been writing my short term and long term career goals down again because I feel like my growth has stalled for the past couple of years. I realized that my desire to grow in my career is not separate from the goals I have to get in bed by 9:00 pm, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and stop worrying about other people more than I worry about myself. The desire to be more structured and regimented won’t happen in a vacuum. I need all of the pieces to work together to score the next interview or finish the last mile in my daily walk. I’ve been changing my diet and I have noticed the results within the past year and a half. I am pleased with the progress with healthier skin and hair, but now it’s time to push past “Well…”. I have new goals because I met some of the ones I established last year. I have gingerly repaired precious relationships that were dead and I’ve learned to communicate more effectively. What is my next frontier? I now understand that performing at a high level in my career involves me getting the proper rest and rising at the same time to conduct my daily routine. I am putting myself out here, and it’s time to push past what was good enough yesterday. I want to go back to church. I want to go with an open heart and not a bullet proof vest protecting by heart. It’s time because I’m ready to stop making excuses and clinging to the past. I won’t utter the words, “Well that won’t happen for me” ever again because that negative conclusion was based off of past data and old experiences. Is it rough to push past “Well”? Well…yes it is! I am going to transfer the career goals I’ve written to a format that also includes dietary, recreational, and Spirit focused goals as well. I don’t want to be growing in my career, but in the same place emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I have started and stopped multiple times, but this time, I want consistency. Voltron needs all five parts to fight off evil doers right? Good enough is not good enough anymore. I’m not comfortable anymore because I am finally admitting I want it all: all the rays of sunshine on my face, the sounds of dogs barking, sweaty 4-mile runs, chicken, the laughter of friends and family, good times and gratitude for Sunday morning. I’m off to an amazing start.
Sometimes I talk too much. Sometimes I don’t talk at all. Sometimes I don’t say enough. I am still learning to gauge when I should or should not speak up. Some days to avoid confrontation or confusion, I wear my “church lady” grin. The grin that shows no teeth or wrinkles around your eyes. It’s a “nice on ice” look that says I have manners, but I don’t want to be bothered with the outside world right now. The top of my face is stone, while the bottom is curled into a disingenuous grimace that passes for sterile human emotion. It’s the smile you muster when you let the other cars go before you at four-way stop sign. It’s the smile you slap on your face when you let the lady with the screaming baby go before you in the grocery line, or when I am passing a stranger on the street or in the hallway. I use it when I don’t want to be bothered, or I have two seconds to be “nice”. Heaven forbid I’m not “nice”. Nice is such a one-dimensional facade, a small moment in time. I have a palate of emotions, moods, and behaviors, but “nice” is the dry cleaning of all behaviors. It speeds along transactions and phone calls. Please don’t confuse nice with being polite or having manners. You can be genuinely kind while using manners. Nice is the McDonald’s of mock feminine characteristics. I try my best to stay on auto pilot during business hours, but sometimes the truth slips out. Sometimes self-preservation, protection, and self-defenses are lowered and the pieces of my mind fly out of my lips. Not in a malicious rant, but in a “this is me” way. I sometimes obsess over how my words or actions can be interpreted or twisted incorrectly. It gets stifling seeking the truth in a place that sustains itself on church lady smiles, vague words, self-preservation or survival of the fittest. In a world where honesty is shunned and lies are accepted as truths, telling the truth is an act of radicalism. I believe it’s called having a filter, but the truth lowers your blood pressure. You are truly blessed if when someone asks how you’re doing, you blurt out, “My cramps feel like an autopsy is being performed on my uterus, and you?” To know your truth is safe with someone and it doesn’t induce paranoia is bliss.
He is so powerful that he can fill a dry river bed with an encouraging word or smile. He gives me solice in a tumultuous world and his adoration is priceless. He is a natural leader full of wisdom and guidance. I am safe with him because he is home. He is caring, nurturing, and proud. He is the pages in my diary because he knows my secrets without me having to say a word. He gives unconditionally and forgives quickly. He loves me eternally, and I am grateful for his endurance. He gives joy, acceptance, laughter, and support. He is royalty; which has birthed a loyalty unparallelled. He is regal; causing him to command reverance. He has loved me back to life when I couldn’t. He makes me laugh through my tears, and he encourages me to keep moving when I don’t see a way forward. He has cheered me on my entire life. He is proud of me; and so I hold my head up higher. He has pictures of me throughout every stage in my life on his walls because I’m one of his most beautiful creations. He hugs me tight to show how much he loves me. He is my biggest cheerleader and toughest critic. He is my reflection. He is my air. He is me.
You are crying right now because the lowest price you’ve seen for a turkey is $40. Hams are $52 and forget about roast beef or prime rib. Don’t cry in the grocery store because you saw this day coming months ago. Raise your hand if you find it tough to stay on budget during the holiday seasons? Oh, it’s just me? I don’t think so. Come out and show yourselves you procrastinating, over spending, last minute Lucy’s. You’re in good company.
Last year, when I realized that it was much more advantageous to plan ahead, I started putting money aside months ahead SPECIFICALLY for the festivities. I did the same thing this year. Unfortunately, I had to dip into some of those savings last week, but I will be back on schedule this weekend! Don’t judge me, I’m just confessing… shout out to Destiny’s Child. That’s for the old school fans. I am a firm believer that you cannot skimp on holiday food ingredients or purchase junk for Christmas presents either. I think it’s written somewhere that “Thou shall not be cheapeth”. Or maybe that was a “Writings on the Wall” commandment given by Destiny’s Child? Get your game face on folks and don’t allow this weekend to pass without purchasing quality ingredients for Thanksgiving. In all honesty, your hams, turkeys, and other major meats should have already been purchased and put into the deep freezer. Allot for quality ingredients for this holiday season. Don’t buy generic canned foods and knock off heavy creams, butters, and milks trying to avoid the last minute holiday markups that grocery stores punish last minute shoppers with. That’s an automatic beat down from the family and you know it. Fake & Cheese is NOT mac & cheese, and your pies will taste like flies. We’ve waited all year round’ for this bountiful feast and you will not ruin it with your old can of green beans and funyuns, calling it green bean casserole. The devil is a lie! Green beans should be fresh this time of year. That’s why Mama Payne asked Gina, “You still chuckin dem peas big face?” because fresh is mandatory. Pass the peas like they used to do this season. Stick to your budget because these are the times we all wish for. Hang all the mistletoe and happy shopping!
Being Present and Laying a Foundation
Holidays are the fabric that brings folks together this time of year. Family and friends get together to talk about what’s transpired in order to catch up. That’s cool, but what about folks who use the holiday to even scores and collect debts from 1994? What if past holidays have taught you to dread or fear this time of year? I have learned to handle some of this by being present. What do I mean by being present? I actively keep my mind on what I’m experiencing in that moment. I give people my full attention. I let my joy and unbridled enthusiasm for today shine brighter than yesterday and I don’t worry about tomorrow. For one day, I am in the moment. I unplug and laugh with abandonment. I savor the taste of my food. I smell a glass of red wine. I scream at whatever basketball or football game is on. I dress comfortably, and I give thanks to God for blessing me with this moment in time. This moment in time is used to build the tomorrow I want to see. I don’t dwell on what I didn’t get or what I don’t have. I am thankful for now, and that takes practice. For one day, I actively love others and myself. It’s very easy to get caught up in yesterday’s disappointments, but I’ve realized it’s a sin to rob myself of today. Tomorrow will take care of itself, so enjoy today. What I’ve come to find out is these are self-care strategies that I’ve learned to practice throughout the year. Take care of yourself this holiday season. I will pass these traditions down to my children because I want them to inherit joy and laughter.
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud! Play all of your black holiday music, enjoy all of our traditional dishes, and hug your loved ones tight. I LOVE this time of the year and I have so much to be thankful for. See you next year!
Shortly after Halloween and the first snow fall, I begin to feel a familiar nostalgia that is simultaneously exciting and unnerving. My mind races as I think about all of the things I’d like to accomplish. Family photos, holiday cards, and transforming our home into a winter wonderland. Then anxiety sets in. Are we financially prepared for this? Why didn’t I buy the clearance items from Target last year when they were 75% off? What was I thinking?
Then, my mind switches to my childhood and all of the Christmases that I anxiously awaited Santa, long after I knew he didn’t exist. The thought of someone who cared enough to make sure that I received the things that I desired kept me hopeful. Every year I’d grow eager with anticipation and every year, it was pretty much a disappointment. Kids don’t care about practicality, bills and responsibilities. I know that my brother and I surely didn’t. All kids know is that at least once a year their dreams can come true. I always want my children to feel this way. I always want them to associate the holidays with love, warmth, family and sharing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t place a lot of emphasis of receiving gifts, but I do understand the importance of allowing children to believe that they’re special enough to be gifted with some of their desires.
The older I get, the more I value time, peace and sanity. The holidays are often like weddings and funerals. They tend to bring the worst out of people without them even realizing it. This year, I’m choosing to fall back. I have vowed to pace myself and not to get involved with anything or anyone that causes me to feel anything but joy. Some people eat themselves into oblivion, others drink themselves into oblivion. This year, I am simply choosing to disengage, recharge and spend quality time with my family. We tend to focus on all of the wrong things during the Holiday season. This year, I intend to get it right.
As for this season, there are some certainties. Shopping for the kids is done. The holiday cards and winter wonderland have yet to be accomplished. If time, money and energy don’t permit, I refuse to stress. I’ll just plan better for next year.