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 delusional 7-year-old me. Much of life is out of our control – my control. The ones we 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.
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.
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 December 31st, 2020. It has not been a tough year for me. It has been a challenging three years for me. With all of the many challenges, there have been major highlights – my move back to Texas and my first home – to name a couple. I hate to break it to you but that’s life. It is full off ebbs and flows; highs and lows. Regardless of the day, I choose to be happy.
There in lies the rub. How does one choose to be happy? You choose which thoughts to follow. I can have a great morning and then a thought of what could possible ruin it will come. I deliberately vanquish that thought and replace it with a greater one. Who we are begins in the mind. Similar advice is given when embarking on a weight loss journey. When cravings occur, you must replace the bad food habit with a good one. Every. Single. Time. No do that with the mind.
This is why breathing exercises work so well to halt racing thoughts or heightened anxiety. You are forced to change your thoughts from the issue causing anxiety to your breath, the most basic element of being. The Bible says;
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
We are because we breath. Elementary my dear Watson.
I have a theory that we have memorized a soliloquy of negative thoughts about ourselves. That scene is turned on intermittently. We know if word-for-word, like the Sophia speech in The Color Purple, All my life I had to fight . . .
Today, write a new version. Start with what’s good about you. I know this is difficult, especially, if you are only used to the abusive version. I’ll start.
I am a loving, God-fearing woman. I work hard and try to treat people with love and respect.
Yeah me! I bought a freaking house in a pandemic. God is good. Am I right? lol
I have lost most of my regained weight. I have renewed focus and determination regarding my health goals.
I am over 10k words in book number 2!
As I was typing, I resisted the urge to temper my good things with an ‘I am not perfect’ or a ‘It has been a struggle’. No qualifications, state what is great about you. It is important to celebrate your wins. Even small incremental ones. If you did 1 sit-up, tell yourself, “You did that!” You drank 8 glasses of water today, “You go girl!”. You caught yourself before spiraling into destructive thoughts, “You da man!”.
You are worth celebrating. You are loved and needed. I am telling you, now tell yourself. Choose your thoughts. As a man (or woman) thinks, so is he. Real talk.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects tens of millions of people. SAD is associated with the prolonged darkness of winter months. Some places experience winter up to seven months out of the year.
Can you imagine being SAD for over half the year? Month after month looking to the sky only to find Cirrostratus clouds and gray shadows? Many people live a sad existence, when all they really need is the sun.
I dreamed once that I was in a home with a man and children. The place was dark but spotlight surrounded me wherever I walked. I was trying to get the man of the house to see that what was missing in this home was light. I tried a lamp but it was not working. I tried opening windows and pushing back drapery to no avail. In frustration, I left this home and the light followed me.
In Plato’s Symposium, the character Aristophanes introduces the concept of twin flames to describe love. The idea stems from man and woman originally existing as one being. They became arrogant and wanted to be Godlike, so the gods split them in two. Each half craves the other half to experiences wholeness. Reveries illuminate unconscious desires. In that dream, I was desperately seeking light. I could not comprehend how someone could live in the absence of it. I tried to share my own but it was not enough.
I now understand that you cannot be the only light in a relationship; the only one planning for the future, the only one financially stable, etc. You need a companion flame. This companion love exists. It is too light to be seen, as one cannot look into the sun. You will not because its glow will surround you.
A fairy tale is defined as a mythical tale featuring magical and fantastic creatures. There are heroic feats accomplished by ordinary humans who somehow found their inner strength after a long quest. Beautiful maidens are brought back to life by the kiss of a true love. In short, it is a made up tale in a make believe world with invented characters and creatures. They are written for children. As children, we still possess that wide-eyed faith that good wins over evil. We believe in happy endings.
As we age, we stop believing. Kissed too many frogs and they stayed ugly and slimy. Dropped all of our money on a handful of beans and a dream to wake up still broke with no golden goose egg. Disappointment and bad breaks lead to disillusionment.
I want you to believe again.
This is why I write. Have an eye-wide open faith in love, redemption and the happily ever after. It is hope that keeps us going. I write hope-filled love stories centered around Christian characters with real life issues. It is an un-sanitized look at imperfect people with a hope in a perfect God making mistakes, getting it wrong, and through the drama – finding redemption and a happy ending. The happy ending may not look like a prince on a horse but something a little unexpected.
I will keep writing and if, you will keep reading – we will get to our happy ending – together.
One of the most difficult exercises I have encountered (outside of burpees) has been setting and reinforcing healthy boundaries in my life. I can distinctly recall having a bully of a friend in college. Not the physically violent type of bully but a controlling, will-imposing, guilt-tripping kind of friend. I tried everything, except telling her directly how she was overbearing, to end the relationship. The final straw was an argument that could have been avoided if I had only stood up for myself, erected, and enforced a healthy boundary.
Toxic people poison your life and impact your health by being a constant drain on your energy and mood. They can be tricky to identify. Humans are multifaceted beings. No one is all bad. However, when someone continues to do things that harm you emotionally, socially, and/or financially, you may need to set a boundary.
Controllers: These are people who want to dictate who you can or cannot be friends with. They want to isolate you from others so that their influence is the most dominant one in your life. You can experience this in friendship, marriage, or business.
Angry Birds: These are people who have a negative disposition on life. They will shoot down any good news with a complaint. They will dull your dreams with why it will never work out. Do yourself a favor and erect a boundary. Start by informing that person of how their behavior makes you feel. Next, state that if the behavior continues, you will limit the time spent with this person. Last, enforce it.
The Needy and the Greedy: These are people who always have a hand out. They always need to borrow money or your car. They hit you with a sob story and lead you to believe you are their only hope. Point them to Jesus and a financial literacy course.
Establishing boundaries is no easy feat. Relationships develop behavior patterns. You may even positively identify as the ‘strong one’. It is easy to fall back into a familiar role if not careful.
Recently, I had someone call me at 4:30 am. The last time I received a call that early, my godmother had passed. I answered in a panic. The caller was stuck in a town an hour away and asked if I would come and get him. I was so relieved that someone was not actually dead. I put on my ‘captain-save-a-bro’ cape and headed out. As I was driving down winding, isolated back-roads in the dark, I realized how incredibly stupid this was. I was putting myself at risk to save someone who, as I learned later, was in the predicament by being irresponsible.
On the way back, I start asking all of the questions I should have asked earlier on the phone: Don’t you have roadside assistance? How much would an Uber have cost? Granted, this was an extenuating circumstance, so I was not tripping too hard that I had agreed to pick him up. However, I was annoyed by his lack of preparedness. I firmly stated that I was not driving back out to this town or any town in the middle of the night. I explained that he needed to have a plan in place in case something like this happened again, a rescue plan did not include me.
The next day, I get a call asking if I will ride out to the same town to help drive his car back. Having already firmly stated that I would not be driving back out to that remote town, I said no. I provided sound alternatives; get a male friend to help, pay someone to assist, or get a tow truck to haul your car back. Of course this person, used to me swooping in to save the day, was annoyed and angrily ended the call.
Enforcing boundaries is necessary to protect your mental and emotional health. You must set the rules of engagement for your relationships. Those who love and respect you will choose to play by the rules. Those who do not will be effectively blocked.
Dave Coulier played Joe on the immensely popular sitcom Full House. He would say the quip, “Cut it out,” while simultaneously doing the hand gestures simulating the act of cutting it out.
I am having a benign tumor removed tomorrow. It is something I noticed 8 or 9 years ago. I had started my weight loss journey and weighed myself every morning after I got out of the shower. I remember looking in the mirror and noticing something on my back. I strained my neck as much as I could until it was clear that I was not imagining things. There was a big lump on my back. Every doctor who looked at it said that it was just a common lipoma and I should leave it alone unless it starts to bother me.
My weight loss journey has been a roller coaster ride. An unexpected move, career anxiety, and a breakup caused a serious setback for a recovering emotional eater. I decided to really hit the gym hard and weight lift. I got a workout plan and committed. The more I worked my shoulders, that benign tumor became a literal pain. What the doctors called harmless was impeding my progress. Despite my initial fear of surgery, I made the decision to have it removed.
I was listening to a Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson on Youtube. He told the story of an eagle who was killed by a fish. The eagle had grabbed the large fish and took flight. A storm came and the eagle began to fall. He could not let the fish go as it had become stuck in his talons. That benign fish, that should have been an easy dinner, was his downfall.
An ex, a behavior, an activity may seem benign at first. A lump that you have grown accustomed to having. This metaphorical lump is hindering your progress. Anything that keeps you from flying is a weight that you must let go. If it seems stuck to you, do like Dave and “cut it out”.
Holding on to something you have instead of going for what you really want is a recipe for unhappiness.
Let me say it again!
Holding on to something you don’t really want instead of going for what you truly desire is a recipe for unhappiness.
People stay in jobs they hate due to a number of reasons. One being tradition. They saw their parents work at a company for 20, 30 years and retire. They stay because it pays the bills. Maybe there are kids, a mortgage, sick family members who need health insurance.
The migraines, colds, lethargy could be due to your own unhappiness.
How do you get to a career that fulfills you? Take a class to improve your skills, join a professional group to network with professionals, start a side-hustle that you LOVE.
There are people dating/married to men/women who cheat, mistreat, deceive, etc. They stay out of convenience, fear of being single, or something other than true love. Deep down, some believe that they do not deserve any better. Your happiness cannot be gotten from someone else, great relationship or not. However, being with the wrong person can lead to stress, angst, mistrust – all of which contribute to unhappiness.
LET IT GOOOOO . . . but have a plan.
That’s right. Plan for your happiness. Imagine it. Create a vision board. Look at it everyday. Locate the dream job. Find out it’s requirements. Work to become qualified. Network with professionals in your industry . . and BAM! You are doing something you love.
Go to the gym. Get a meal plan, Read books. Become that interesting irresistible person the man/woman of your dreams will be attracted to . . . and BAM!
Happily Ever After!
You can have love and happiness but you have to let go of what you really do not want. Have faith and go after what you really want.