Janet Jackson’s top charting album Control debuted in 1986. I was 7 years old. I had no control over anything. I went to church, to school, and to bed when I was told. I ate what was put in front of me. However, my siblings and I did jointly revolt against stewed rutabagas. I shared my room and my toys. I could hardly wait to become an adult because that meant having a say in what happens to me and controlling the stuff around me.
Poor disillusioned 7-year-old me. Much of life is out of our control – my control. The ones you love will behave in ways we wish they would not. An employer may move the company to another state. Your neighbors will put in noisy windchimes that sound like the intro soundtrack of a horror movie every time the wind blows. #argh. It is all out of our control.
What you can control is you. And that’s a big task. When I wake up in the morning, it is a decision for me to give thanks. Most days it is natural. Other days, when I have slept in the wrong position and wake up with a crook in my neck, or have to do some arduous task; my first thought is not always gratitude. So, I make it a practice, part of my morning routine. “Lord, I am grateful for life.” That is my repositioning mechanism. It reroutes my train of thought from all of the unpleasantries to the beautiful serendipity of this life.
You actually have a lot of control. You control if and when you eat, workout, listen to gossip, watch TV or read a book. You choose whether to curse the sun or bask in its heated glory. Choosing wisely affects your growth – mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Last Saturday, I celebrated two people embarking on a new life together – a wedding. This past Saturday, I celebrated the life of my aunt – a funeral.
Life is impermanent
In 2019, we were on the warm sands of Jamaica celebrating her grandson’s wedding. The wedding was a beautiful moment where family got together to celebrate a happy occasion. In retrospect, I am grateful to have spent that time with my aunt. Who knew that eight months later the pandemic would arrive? Travel and weddings were halted in the face of a global crisis. The wedding last Saturday, was the first I have attended since my little cousin’s wedding in Jamaica.
Every time someone passes, the universe shifts. Much like the pandemic, there is the world that existed before and the new world order that exists after the event. I think about my godmother whose passing caused seismic changes in my world.
Life is cyclical
My aunt and my godmother were both old school saints. Having grown up COGIC (#IYKYK), the old school saints represented tradition and faithfulness. My godmother was someone whose advice and judgment I trusted. The old saints could ‘get a prayer through’. With the passing of the old guard, an uncomfortable truth is birthed. We are the new elders.
What will our legacy be? What will my legacy be? It is tough thinking of myself as an ‘elder’ when I still feel the preteen angst of not quite knowing how I fit in the world. I am still learning and growing.
Bearing the Load
Funerals are horrible for empathic souls like myself. I cry when I see another’s tears. My heart aches when a head is bowed in sorrow. Words cannot erase the sting of death. Being present in loving support is all we can do. If pain is transferable, then so must be hope and love.
My nephew was one of the pallbearers. A loaded casket can weigh at least 300 pounds. Yet the weight is distributed amongst six or more men, making the load less heavy. We attend funerals to celebrate the life of the person who has graduated to heaven. We also go to provide emotional support to the immediate family so that an unbearable loss can be borne.
At age 30, I was 10 months into my new city of Dallas, Texas. I would be starting grad school in a few months. I spent my Saturday mornings floating in my community pool chasing clouds. Everything around me felt like spring – fresh and new. Being single was an asset providing the freedom of movement and self-determination I needed to move away from family and start fresh halfway across the country. I did not have to consider the opinion of another person (other than my mom who was all for it) when deciding my life’s goals. I was aware of my singleness. However, that awareness was a soft rimshot in the background of my mind. Life’s music loudly drowned out the noise.
The 2009 census data revealed 70% of black women remained unmarried. This data point became the topic of many talk shows and evening news specials with talking heads sounding alarms about women like me – educated, female, and black – doomed to be forever single. The rimshot became a foreboding boom. The warning was not just from distant media figures that could be tuned into and turn off of my own volition. Every married person I encountered had a a stick in hand adding to the cacophony. When an invitation to dinner by a married couple turned out to be a kamikaze blind date, I felt the impact of that stick right across my forehead. It was if my singleness made other people uncomfortable. They felt urged to fix it with or without my permission.
I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend alone, still single. The bride, 50 years old, married later in life. Turns out that 2009 census data had been misinterpreted.
A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued. According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women in the United States had never been married — but those were women between the ages of 25 and 29. Black women marry later, but they do marry. By age 55 and above, those numbers showed, only 13 percent of black women had never been married. In fact, people who have never married in their lifetimes are in the clear minority, regardless of race.
Early in life, I learned that the natural trajectory of a woman’s life went something like – daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife, and mother. Who are you if you do not belong to anyone? I wanted to learn who I was before having to be everything to someone else. I am brave, witty, funny even. I care way to deeply about everything. I love big and wide. I am dependable. I trust against the residue of doubt that bad experiences have left behind. I am adventurous in measured doses. And I learned all of this about myself while being single.
This is not a “Say it loud. I’m singe and I’m proud,” post. It is an acknowledgment that my singleness has served a purpose. Marriage is still a goal, not just THE goal.
I forget names as soon as they pass from my auditory nerve in my inner ear to the auditory cortex in my brain. It’s my superpower.
A group of women met today to discuss blog content and life at Native Coffee. It’s a coffeehouse in a church or church in a coffeehouse. Not sure which.
God has a way of winking at you. I have my biweekly book club meeting today at 2:00 PM. We are smack dab in the middle of reading, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In it, Mark tells of God giving him the idea to start a coffee house in what use to be a crack house. So, apparently, Mark started the wave of church adjacent coffeehouses.
Speaking of water, learning to swim is a counterintuitive exercise of the mind. In order to float, you have to let go of control of your limbs. Every muscle fiber wants to fight to keep your head above water which only pulls you furthr beneath the surface.
Being in the presence of other creatives is freeing. I shared my frustration with being in a season of uninspiration. Is that a word? It is definitely accurate. I got support and advice. No one told me I was being extra. It was comforting.
Like floating faceup in a blue pool with the Jamaican sun in your face. Freedom.
I even felt inspired enough to crank out this post. Community matters.
There is a story in the bible known as the Parable of the Talents. In this parable, a man leaves on a far journey. He entrusts three servants with varying amounts of talents. To one he gave five; to another two; and to the third, one talent. Upon the man’s return, he called the three servants to account for what had been given them. The first two doubled their amount of talents through investments and hard work. The third hid the one talent in the ground and returned the single talent to the man. The prosperous servants were granted many things due to their profitability to the man in his absence. The third unprofitable servant was punished.
As I write this post, I am listening in on a Zoom with a woman who is leading worship via piano – singing and playing worship songs. She is a former music teacher who can no longer teach due to health issues. Although she is no longer able to use this gift in her former career any longer, she is still putting the gift to use sowing into the spiritual lives of myself and everyone else on this call.
What is your ‘talent’?
In the Bible the talent in the parable is a monetary unit. It is a tool that can be invested or loaned out to increase its value over time. The initial amount provided to the three servants was money that belonged to their master. It is because they multiplied the value of that investment, they were rewarded by being made ‘rulers’ of many. A hint to discovering your talent is to realize it is a gift entrusted to you from the Father. It is valuable in its original state. Your management of it is the key to your increase. Are you frustrated with a lack of success in your career, finances, relationships? Could it be you have hidden, undiscovered talents in you?
Writing is my talent. It is the activity that brings me the most joy. Today I am inspired to keep sowing my talent via this blog and my books.
This scripture popped in my head today in the early morning hours:
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 NIV
In the biblical context, God is speaking to a pagan king. He promises to give King Cyrus “hidden treasures” because he allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
I pondered upon the meaning of the text. God will bless those who bless his people. Who are God’s people? Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Then I asked, who can I bless?
Someone needs what you can provide; be it your time, money, attention, or service. Those who need it the most may not ask for your help. You need to seek out opportunities to assist. Prayerfully ask God to reveal who needs you. You do not have to be perfect to be a vessel for God’s glory. Look at King Cyrus. You only need to be willing.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Mathew 7:11 KJV
Christmas 2021 is over and done. You could not control the gifts you received. Trust me, I know. I got a tin box filled with 3 stuffed Minion characters for the Secret Santa exchange. The good news is that you can control the gifts you give. God is the best gift giver. Like, who can top eternal life? Even in this present world, you can receive “hidden treasures”. Not that you give to receive, but a promise is a promise.
But it’s not. When the end of something approaches, there is this primitive fear of what is next. Is there a landing just beyond the ledge or a cliff. Why does faith demand that we jump either way?
It is frightening. To date, to find a new job, to move to a new city, to buy a house, to enforce a boundary, all are difficult feats. I am continuously suppressing the urge to delete every new contact become a hermit and buy a cat. It would be the safest, riskless thing to do.
It still seems unfair. To have invested so much time, hope, and energy into a venture and have little to no return. I wonder why am I not content to just be? I have this innate desire to explore, to reach for more.
I am still going to move forward. There is no alternative. Life ceases where there is no growth. Unless you become some dormant being. Who can live in dormancy?
Art is subjective. It is the truest representation of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. One man’s art is another man’s trash. I can go on and on with the cliches. The use or misuse of cliches can also be seen as art. Art does not have to be perfect to be present. We all strive to put our best foot forward; however, if you wait until every “i” has been dotted, you could be waiting forever.
When I published my first novel, Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story, I agonized over the roll-out not being perfect. There were mistakes made. Ironically, the mistakes taught me how to become a better writer, editor, and publisher. I have met many contacts in the literary world and garnered incredible opportunities. These opportunities never would have materialized if I had not published my book waiting on perfection.
Any form of waiting to act can easily morph into procrastination. Fear of failure can halt the creative process. Throw caution to the wind (cliche) and write, act, go to school, workout, learn a language – just freaking do it. The failures that come are a blessing if you learn the lesson.
Do not wait to become perfect. Act and then perfect the process.
It is the month of July, seven months into year 2021. This is not a post shaming you for what you have not gotten done. It is not a warning to start hustling for the rest of the year. It is a call to appreciate today. Breathe. Your lungs work. You are alive. That is something to be excited about.
Imagine you are asleep peacefully in bed. The house thermostat is resting at a cool 68 degrees. You may even have a fan going while you are snug under a soft blanket. Pretty peaceful, right? Now imagine the piercing sound of your home alarm blaring. You bolt up, toss the blanket aside, and rush down the hall. From the corner of your eye, you see the intruder dart back out of the door he/she had pried open a moment before. No one is harmed. Nothing is taken. Can you then just secure the door, get back in bed, and fall into blissful slumber?
NO! Of course not. The robber may not have stolen your physical possessions but he did rob you of what you once had – your peace.
Living in the here and now, being content with what you have brings peace. Peace is an internal state of being. What can rob you of this coveted contentment? I would say anything that keeps you from appreciating what you have in the here and now. Jealousy is a green-eyed robber. It causes you to covet something someone else possesses. This can morph into hatred of the other person if left unchecked. Comparing your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 12 can switch you from peace into discontentment. Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
If you have found your self depleted of your peace, could it be that you have shifted your gaze into someone else’s lot?
It is okay to desire good things. We all want a safe home, a good income, a family of our own. These are all good things. Some things may come with time or not at all. Being grateful for all that you do have is a surefire way to shift your focus. Gratitude is a mood booster.
I am exciting about the now. There is joy and peace in the place you are right now. This very moment you are reading these words. Inhale. That breath is a sign of life.
I actually took a vacation, a full 4 days off from work. I organized my kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Mopped my floors. Washed Just about everything. My family came to visit. I ate too much. All of the things I never get to do on regular work days, except for eating too much. I am a work in progress.
Today, is Saturday. My family have made it back to their homes. Looking to recover from the no calorie counting week, I get up early and get in a 45-minute walk. I usually do longer but I am working with an injured foot. I even stop to do 5 minutes of park bench assisted pushups. I decide to go to Bam’s Vegan: Smoothies & Wraps spot in Irving. A little backstory here. Bam’s Vegan was a really popular Dallas Farmer’s Market station. He always had a long line every trip I made and ALWAYS sold out fast.
I get there early and sit in my car chatting it up with a friend. I get off the phone and head over to the door only to discover a line of about 5 people in front of me. Now, I am wishing I had started walking like I was talking. I ask the young woman ahead of me if this was the line to enter because others were just walking in. She says, “Yes ma’am” to every question. I am no longer annoyed at the line but the fact she keeps yes ma’am-ing me to death. Yes, I did knowingly go out of the house without coloring my grays which are directly along the front of my hairline, but still. Disrespect aside, lol, I get my vegan delights and head home. The food hits the spot and I am in a food coma. I start to think, how easy it would be to be vegan if Bam’s was closer to my home or work. It is a good 35 minute drive to get there.
I was listening to a prayer on my walk this morning. Nature and the Lord is a good combo for my peace. The narrator mentioned how the capacity to do good and evil exists in all of us, even the bible heroes. I could have easily not had the extra slices of pizza, or the ice cream. Did I mention the Doritoes? YIKES. Here’s to forgiving ourselves, choosing better next time, and getting me some Clairol in a box.