What if we told the truth?
“I like you but I think you make dumb decisions. Are we still gonna be friends or what?”
“I wish you were someone else but you’re here so do you still wanna be my boyfriend or not?”
We are all liars to some degree.
To tell the truth is risky. To bare one’s soul and risk being judged, being left, being seen.
For who we really are.
Who are we? Beings holding on too tight to relationships that tear us, break us. Bleeding not to be alone.
Truth is, alone is where God wants us – sometimes.
It is the only place where he can speak through burning bushes, on quiet mountainsides. Destiny is foretold in isolation.
Truth be told. I am growing tired of the silence. I cannot stand the noise. Perhaps, I need to climb higher or sit and be still.
Does He know that I am listening, intently?
Am I telling the truth?
There was a season in my life when I felt like a lioness spiritually. I could check several things of of my how to be righteous checklist. My prayer game was strong. Check. I had completed reading the entire bible. Check. I paid my tithes on time. Check. My life was so full. I had church, singing, school, family, and friends. No idle time for the devil to make a playground of.
I was truly asking, believing, and receiving. Feeling self-assured, I decided to ask a bold prayer:
- God reveal to me those who are not for me.
It was a prayer that I felt I already knew the answer to. At the time, I naively, believed that I had no enemies. To me knowledge, I had not mistreated anyone. So, I expected nothing to happen. And then something happened. People started to fall away from my life. I am talking about folk who I thought were my day ones, my ride-or-dies. I look back on it and wonder – wow. It was swift and exact like a two-edged sword.
God will answer your prayers so be careful what you ask. Your frame of mind matters. Ask from a pure heart and not spiritual arrogance, as was my case.
I am older now. I have gone through a process of forgiving, even when the the person has not acknowledged or asked for forgiveness. I realize that Christ has forgiven, and keeps forgiving me without adding each offense to my account. Isn’t that a beautiful thing – grace? All of it stems from God’s love for me. It is infinite and complete. One of my goals in life is to love completely.
Twenty years older and wiser, I have decided to edit that prayer. I now pray:
- God reveal to me those who truly love me.
The good people God allows in our life are a gift. I don’t want to overlook anyone in my life who may be feeling unappreciated. Like Dorothy in Oz, we can spend our lives on an a wistless journey to find favor of impotent wizardly friends. People who we feel that if we can garner their favor they can provide access to some secret loyalty or treasure that has been kept from us. Family and friends – these are the true treasures of life. If you have people who truly love you, you are rich.
2016 has been a trying year for all. There have been disappointments, deaths, and disasters. Not to mention the rise of the Donald. Social media posts show heartbreak over celebrity deaths. Someone has created a GoFundMe account to protect Betty White. Many people are eager to see 2016 go in hopes of a better 2017.
If you really think about it, there have also been joys, births, and good times. Isn’t every year a mix of triumphs and disappointments? It is called life. We as humans increment the vastness of time into yearly increments. Perhaps it gives us some sense of control over the uncontrollable. The truth is – bad stuff happens and so does good stuff. Your happiness cannot hinge on the nature of what is happening around you.
I have been cooking lately. Well, learning to cook. Yesterday, I decided to do it big. The meal planned – fried pork chops, mashed potatoes from scratch, and roasted garlic asparagus. I prepared by reading highly rated recipes. I watched how-to videos on Youtube. I was PREPARED. Armed with ingredients, knowledge, and determination – I was ready. I started cooking. Everything seemed to be going great. Food looked good, smelled even better. After much sweat, I was finally finished. I fixed my plate. It looked good enough for Instagram. I cut into the perfectly browned pork chop. It was too salty. I felt the wind escape from my sails. I was not only cooking for myself but for my boyfriend, too. I was near tears. My friend said that is was okay. He stated that the only way to learn is to try. I began to feel less terrible.
That is my 2016 in a nutshell. It started with great aspirations. I even had a plan, a vision board even. I tried my best and still some things failed – relationships, promotion attempts, finishing my second book, weight loss. It was like those Facebook videos you watch of someone taking off in a race and then some invisible leg extends in front of them and they trip and fall. It feels like the fall is so hard because the person running was moving ahead at full-speed expecting to finish first.
I had started writing a great story based on my childhood adventures – over 10,000 words. I had written some wonderful poetry almost 30 pages worth. I went to Texas for a work conference and lost my thumb drive. Talk about tripping over an invisible leg. Man, I was hurt. Thankfully, the 10,000 words had been backed-up on the cloud. The poetry only exists in my head and heart.
I am ready to start again.
If you have been graced with another day of life, you have another chance to get it right. Some failures require some hard work. Others require some downtime for healing. No matter how comfortable, resist the urge to stay here. This place is meant to be temporary. You have to get up and keep running.
2017 is what you make of it. Start again. Be enthusiastic again. If you should fall, get back up and continue.
Back in the '90s, there was a hip-hop song, "We're All in the Same Gang". It was a collaboration of West Coast rappers that promoted anti-gang violence. The message of the song is that we are all fighting the same battle so why fight each other. The relationship between women can be as precarious as gang-affiliations. If a new sister enters the arena, she is an enemy first until proven otherwise. I may be getting a little too deep but that has been my experience. Moving from city to city, I have been the new girl more often than not.
Saturday, I participated in a newly formed book club at my new church. My novel, Ruth's Awakening: A Love Story, was selected as the first book. I was a little nervous about this meeting. As a writer, I consider my novel my baby. I am very protective of it. I had to overcome the self-doubt that others would find the story as good as I thought it to be. Plus, I am the new girl. I was not sure what to expect.
We met at a local bakery. I handed out an agenda created to facilitate the conversation. In no time, everyone was opening up, laughing and talking. The characters in the novel became a mirror by which some attendees could see their own experiences reflected. The experience was revelatory.
I learned a few things during our book club discussion.
The retrospective offers the most precise point of view. You know every twist and turn your life has taken – no surprises here. Often, I have looked upon my past and only recount my mistakes. If I had only done this or not done that – then . . . *insert perfect ending*. Evaluating your past successes and mistakes can be a painful process. Embrace it. Through it, you can make well-planned choices for a deliberate future. Life still happens but it is important to know that you have a choice in the matter.
To myself five years ago, I write:
1. Enjoy the moment you are in. In five years, you will be in a different state – physically and metaphorically.
2. This extra weight will be a thing of the past. You will not be at your goal weight but you will have lost 35 plus lbs, have a fitness group of over 100 members, and be lifting weights.
3. Do not dwell on the past mistakes as much. Learn from them and move on. A choice made is just a choice. Do not torture yourself wondering what would have been if you had made a different choice.
4. The man you have been dreaming about is just that – a man and a dream. He will disappoint your fantasy of him and that is okay. You are more beautiful and desired than you have ever known.
5. Life is going to throw you some curve balls in every area – health, family and finances. Know that you are well-equipped for this battle and God has your back.
6. Please, Felicia, be kinder to yourself. You have accomplished so much already. You will be amazed by what you are going to do.
7. STOP, just STOP living in fear. You will curse the chance not taken because of playing it safe. Do not fret too much, you will get another opportunity to prove yourself brave. You will pass.
8. You will learn that it is okay to love and to lose because the joy is in the experience. Loving without any expectation of reciprocity is the purest love of all.
9. Once you have completed reading this letter, do not ponder it too much. Life is lived in the now.
10. Go live!
An Older and Wiser You
I burned my right index finger Monday night attempting to turn chicken with a short fork. I reached into the oven just a little to deep a YOWZAA! My index finger has a grill mark.
I immediately put a cube of ice on it and the pain subsided but as soon as the thing melted the pain rebounded. I started looking for a quick remedy. I slathered antibiotic ointment on it. That made it worse. I got another cube of ice and the ointment congealed. I was in a bigger mess trying to avoid the pain of my little mistake in judgement. Note to self: always use a long fork when testing food in the oven. It's like cooking 101.
Finally, I just lay in bed. I began to try a mind over matter approach. I thought intensely about another part of my hand. It worked temporarily but I kept reverting to my darn finger. It was not the worse pain I had ever felt but geez did it hurt. Noting the futility of my efforts to minimize my suffering, I had new thought – just ride it out. I reasoned that the pain could only last a few minutes or maybe even an hour. I knew for certain that it would not last forever.
A funny thing happened. I went to sleep.
The next morning I hardly remembered the burn on my hand. I saw the scar – a reminder not to do something so stupid again – but the pain was gone.
Pain is our body's response to trauma. The nerves fire off intensely warning you to stop what you are doing. As my skin touched the heated metal coil my hand instantaneously jerked back. My body's instinct kicked in to protect me.
God has equipped us physically to avoid the damaging things that cause us pain. It will come. Loss, heartache and disappointment are a part of life. Pain is inevitable. You can lament your fate or evaluate the root cause and learn the lesson. Avoidance only leads to chaos. Numbing it with substance abuse or other quick fixes leads to worsening of the initial condition. Ride the wave.. No matter how high the crest, waves always crash. Pain does not last forever.
Standing in the sun outside of my office. I realized the heat is necessary. I closed my eyes and let the sun sink into my pores. I needed a vitamin D mood boost. The scar on my finger is shiny and brown. I have learned the lesson and the pain is gone.
The year's end is upon us. Cue the onslaught of reflections and resolutions. I resolve to <insert goal here>. Bring on those rhyming catch phrases, "In 2015, I'm getting in those size 10 jeans." lol
It is what it is.
For many, the New Year inspires hope for the future. For others, it can spark an onset of the blues. I was speaking with a friend who confided that he felt a bit down. The New Year's Blues, I suggested. I explained that when we reflect on how we have spent the year, often we focus on what we did not do quite right – the shoulda, coulda and wouldas. I found myself in a similar quagmire last night. In addition, a sand truck was dumping on all of the things I still had to do.
I inhaled and exhaled. Through the simple act of breathing, I began the process of letting go. The more I focused on the air entering my lungs and escaping my body, I relaxed. Every mistake made is already past. I can only move forward. Trying to relive the past is as futile as trying to recapture yesterday's air.
It came to me, like an epiphany. *cue Chrisette Michele*. I can let it all go and just breathe.
2015 Right now, I resolve to forgive myself for bad choices. I release myself to make good choices. I also acknowledge all of the things I have gotten right – 40 lbs gone, MBA received and first book published! Yeah me!!!!
This encompasses money, healthy, relationships, career, etc.
I would encourage anyone reading to embark on a journey of self-improvement. Read books, join clubs, expand your circle of friends. Empower yourself, through knowledge and experience, to make better choices. Like the old folk say, "You know better, you do better!"
If you are looking for resources, check out the links below.
I can honestly say that I had a great week. Seriously.
I went home and saw my lovely family. I saw my nephew who I had not seen in nearly 6 0r 7 years. He was shot in the lung a few months ago. By the grace of God he survived and is healthy and strong. We laughed and talked about totally unimportant things but to have him there talking and laughing was the most important thing. You can talk on the phone all day but when you see someone and hold someone, love becomes real. You must be present to do this. Life happens when you are present.
I also saw a good friend (of whom I have written on here in the past) who I had not seen in nearly 16 years. It is wonderful to connect with someone via social media, texting or phone conversations. There is another level of intimacy that occurs when you are able to see, touch, smell and hold someone. It becomes real.
Being present, however, adds another dimension to communication – the all-telling body language.
Why are you so distant? You are acting like we are strangers.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? I have one. It is a blessing and a curse.
I can time time travel. I do it quite often. I live in the past, remembering what was or how I did not take advantage of some opportunity. I live in the future, dreaming of a future where my dreams are my reality.
My cryptonite. Living in the here and now.
I was watching a reality show and a stylist was being reprimanded by the owner. She was trying to point out how the stylist could handle conflict better. The stylist swung around in her chair repeatedly stating that, mentally, she was at Disney World. When she came back to earth, the conflict remained unresolved.
There are moments in life that are not pleasant. You can choose to mentally escape or be present. Feel the moment and what it brings – pain, discomfort, fear. It is only when you are fully present can you ascertain the situation. You will do what is necessary to prevent the same issue in the future. People who time travel escape the moment but the circumstances remain.
I was sitting in the sauna and overheard a conversation between a woman (27-ish) and man (43-ish). The 27 year old woman recounted many events in which her mom physically and emotionally abused her as a child. The older man tried to offer advice. The woman just voiced how the past would not allow her a future relationship with her mother. They went back in forth. The younger women revisiting her past and the older man remember his own.
I just sat there sweating. I really wanted to relax and not think about anything but I was vicariously time travelling via someone else's memory. I could see it all flashing through my mind. Unforgiveness, you are stuck in the past. Procrastination, anticipation, angst – personality traits of a voyager of time.
I closed my eyes allowing the heat to purge the toxic sweat from my body.
It is better to be in the moment. In life, it is all we truly possess.