Posted in Life

Identity Crisis

just a preview of a piece I wrote. 

A brilliant writer by the name of Kola Boof that I follow on twitter said it best: she said ‘In order for a black woman to feel like she has an inch of humanity, she has to leave the black community.’

Wow. The sad part is? That has entirely been my experience, so I can vouch for and say that it’s truth. The places I have felt fully at home, fully human, accepted for who I am, allowed to feel and not apologize for it? They were not in the black community.

America makes it complicated to be a black woman, so does the black community as a whole, as well as the black church.

How do I deal with being a black woman in the hip-hop generation, listening to lyrics referring to women as garden tools and female dogs? Am I valued, am I listened to, are my feelings valid? Or am I just expected to suck it up and be strong, fight for my brothas who obviously have a complicated relationship with me? How can they say they love me but then cuss me out the moment I don’t give them my phone number or respond to their advances?

How do I cope with the fact that as long as white privilege & black male privilege exists, I am a double minority, meaning I often end up at the bottom of the totem pole in society?

How do I reconcile a God who loves with a religion whose doctrine damns people to hell? And how do I deal with not being able to find a church that feels like home? Do I just sit it out? How do I deal with the longing for a community, one that accepts me for who I am, that pushes me, challenges me, is willing to challenge the status quo and love people the way God does, unconditionally?

As a black woman, how do I allow myself to be vulnerable in a culture that praises strength? How do I take care of myself in a culture that often criticizes selfishness and expects everyone else’s needs be met before mine?

How do I say I want a different life from my mother without any examples in front of me of what different looks like? How do I say I don’t want my identity to be wrapped up in being a wife & mother, being in someone else’s shadow? How do I show the world that as a woman who is young, gifted and black that I have something to say and much to offer the world?

As a first-generation college graduate, how do I reconcile the ‘do what you love the money will follow’ advice with the ‘girl, don’t leave that stable government job right now, the economy is a mess’ advice? How do I cope with student loan debt when I know I eventually want to own a house? Is the American Dream of a good job, a nice house with a picket fence going to be out of reach for me?

And how in the world do I navigate a kids-free marriage (so far) when every other married couple around me seemingly has kids or had kids within the first year or two of marriage? People tell me to enjoy my marriage, enjoy life with no kids…but it feels awfully lonely when all your single friends without kids don’t understand what it’s like to be married, and all your married friends have kids.

Fortunately, I’m in my twenties, so I have plenty of years ahead of me to find answers to these questions. In understanding who I am, I can find my purpose & hopefully help others to find theirs.

 

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Posted in Life, Relationships

The Honesty Policy

‘I’d rather be honest than angry.’-Zoe Hart, Hart of Dixie

Crazy how lines written for a television show can mean so much in real life!

I’ve been learning this lesson over the last 6 years, more so the last 3-4 years, since I’ve met my husband. And especially since getting married to him, I’ve learned I’ve had to be way more honest and intentional in my communication. Not that I used to lie to him before, but I wasn’t always fully honest. I never realized that by not being honest, it was holding me hostage, it was holding me back.

I’ve always let fear stop me from being honest with people. Scared I would lose friends, scared that relationships would be damaged if I was truly honest with them. I never was scared of losing someone’s respect, nor did I love myself enough to realize it was definitely messing with my own health.

I let people walk all over me. I usually thought of others’ first. When people confronted me, I shrank and acted like I didn’t care. Then later on, I would rant about the situation. Silly, right? Yet that’s what I did. And the anger kept me hostage.

What I’ve learned recently is that honestly really is the best policy. Once honesty is communicated, you can begin to take steps forward to correct things, if they need correction. Other times honesty is just good for your health. If nothing else, that tension that once was inside of you while you were angry disappears.

One thing I learned in counseling is that we all have certain reactions to things when they bother us, usually a tension in our body. It’s up to us to be honest and speak up about them, because it needs to be released and relievedWe know ourselves and that point of tension better than anyone else does. No need in holding in anger and continuing the dishonesty.

Be honest. Release the anger and let it go. Don’t let anger hold you hostage, instead let honesty free you.

Honesty really is the best policy.

 

Posted in Life

Learning my limits & boundaries

Everyone has limits and boundaries. If you’re not careful, living as if you don’t have them can do more harm than good.

I know this first hand. Everyone needs structure of some sort, some habits (hopefully good ones are cultivated), and rules to live by so that you’re not constantly in conflict with your true inner nature, your true self.

I read Quiet by Susan Cain over the weekend and loved it. I Felt as though someone finally understood what I was going through, as an introvert, as a person. I’m also reading a book on anxiety (since I have dealt with anxiety/panic attacks lately) and the chapter I’m reading is about boundaries. Even though it’s about people with anxiety, I feel as though it can apply to introverts as well.

Extroverts seem to have less inhibitions, at least when it comes to socializing. Or maybe it’s just that they get more energy from hanging out with others, while us introverts end up drained and having to go home to recharge alone. We prefer a good book. We don’t like people disrespecting our need for personal space. We also hate small talk.

I’m learning my limits, something I didn’t really know about until a few weeks ago. So here we go, as I reveal a few of them:

1. It’s not that I don’t like small talk, it’s just that small talk for me, is about sports. Sports is my icebreaker topic. And even with that, I’m not likely to walk up to a complete stranger and talk sports with them.

2. I’ve tried to be more outgoing. I failed. Miserably. I ended up drained and it was pretty awkward. Moving right along…

3. I can spend a whole day with close family (hubby, parents and siblings, parent-in-laws) but I’ll need the evening to recharge, alone or with hubby. I can spend a whole day (or afternoon/morning) with 1-2 close friends, tops. I can spend 3-5 hours (depending on how late it is) at best, with a group of close friends. After that, I am tired and begin to withdraw, becoming less enthusiastic. You’re actually better off hanging out with me in the morning/afternoon. Evening after a long day at work (dealing with the public)? I’ll last a few hours tops.

4. Any job dealing with the public with no downtime whatsoever is the WORST. It causes a bunch of stress and is pretty overwhelming for me. Too much noise/stimulation/chaos bothers me and completely exhausts me of my energy, leaving me frustrated rather quickly. I can do a customer service job, but evenings, when it’s slower and fewer people, tends to work better for me.

5. Church services with loud music, requiring participation (like lifting your hands, shaking your neighbor’s hand, hugging 4-5 or more neighbors, etc) are okay on occasion but not every Sunday. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the more laid back, subdued church services, including ones that allow me to ask questions/reflect.

 

And those are my limits, the ones I’ve learned so far. I’m happy to learn about myself, especially since I feel everyone doesn’t always get me. The more I know about myself, the more I can educate folks around me about what it’s like to be me and what I need from them.

 

Posted in Life

Surrender

Slowly but surely I find myself surrendering. Letting go. I realize holding on to something that may or may not be rightfully mine, is detrimental to me in the long run.

Holding on so tightly to things that don’t belong to me end up doing much more harm than good and I’ve only recently begun to understand what this means.

It means me holding on to this dream of moving out of Cleveland damages my ability to see    what could be. It means me holding on to the belief that just because I did things ‘right’ means I’m entitled to kids, a house, a perfect job, perfect mate, all those other things good Christian girls get when they don’t shack up before marriage. It means that me ignoring my gifts & talents while holding on to fear and staying at a job I really don’t care for slowly but surely kills my courage. It also means me holding on to what think things should be doesn’t allow for me to go with the flow & accept that our plans, do in fact change.

My entire life (well basically since I was about 6 or 7) I have dreamt of leaving Cleveland. I hate to even admit it but I went to college not only because I love learning and I knew the earning potential stats of those without a college degree, but also because I just knew a college degree was my ticket out of Cleveland.

Midway through Cleveland, I met a Bronx native & fell in love. We both expressed our desire to leave Cleveland, and made plans to marry and leave as soon as we could. I assumed that me getting my degree meant we could leave. Only, it hasn’t been that simple. And it’s left me angry, disappointed, upset, unhappy.

But those were my plans. How to I know that leaving Cleveland is a God plan? Further more, how could I assume that just because I got my degree and I thought it was my ticket to leaving, that it meant I would be packing up my life and moving ASAP? If it’s God’s plan for not just my life but me and my family’s life (me and hubby), it will happen on His timing. In the meantime, I’m missing the beauty in being in proximity to my wonderful parents, my sisters, my nephews, and a host of other people. I have an opportunity to do some things, reach some goals…but in order to seize those opportunities…I must surrender and let go of my misconceived notions that I am entitled to anything and everything.

I must be willing to surrender, to let go. To seize opportunities placed in front of me. If I continue to attempt to maintain control, I will continue spinning my wheels in place, going absolutely nowhere. I will continue to go around in circles thinking I have it all figured out, not knowing God has something better for me. God is looking at the entire picture, His vision and foresight is far better than mine. I’m merely only able to see right in front of me and speculate on the future, while God can see years ahead of me and confidently shape me based on the future He has planned.

I’m letting go of my fear, shame, guilt, doubt, my story that I keep telling, everything. My story only tells where I’m going, where I am now…the story I know? Doesn’t include where I’m headed or how it will all end. My story is still being written. I keep trying to write the story but I’m not in control.

If you find yourself in a similar position, do yourself a favor and surrender. I don’t want you to waste time like I did, sitting up late at night, trying to figure things out. Go to sleep. Surrender. Wake up. Instead of having the next five years of your life planned out, surrender. You want an awesome story to tell your kids & grandkids?

Surrender.

Posted in Life, Relationships

Social Media-Changing Lives One at a Time

Social media & networking/community sites/Blogging websites, in many ways, changed my life.

I entered college at the height of it, 2004. Facebook was brand new, myspace was just getting popular. Blackplanet was waning.

As a shy introvert, I wasn’t the outgoing type. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t friendly or that I didn’t like people, it’s just that I’m shy.

Social media/networking sites allowed me to interact with people with similar interests with less pressure. It’s why I say twitter/facebook/etc are introvert havens.

Chances are, the folks with the most tweets aren’t necessarily extroverted. The extroverted people I know are the ones out busy socializing. The ones tweeting the most are probably off in a corner or at work isolated.

I can think of some major moments in my life and social media is connected to many of them.

Like going off to college. I met some people who I still keep in touch with today, thanks to a community website geared towards Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Or the life changing seminary visit. I would not have even visited had it not been for a current student (well now he’s an alumnus) reaching out to be on twitter to get me to come visit. To this day, that visit has impacted my faith and how I view community. I also keep in touch with the young ladies I met on the visit.

Many of my closest friends, I met on, you guessed it, social media. In fact, I’ll say about 80% of the friends I met in college I met via blogging/social media. That might sound crazy, but it took the pressure off of me socially.

Social media allows me to engage in some intellectually stimulating & silly conversations from all over. Which, I prefer to small talk that tends to happen more in person. The only time I can engage in small talk in person is if it’s sports related. If it’s not sports related, then things can get rather awkward quickly upon talking to someone new, until you find something you have in common.

Social media & blogging have been GREAT ice breakers for me, reducing the awkwardness for me, even among family members. I’m not much of a phone person if I don’t know you well, not to mention, phone conversations take a lot out of me. I have a million cousins and social media actually makes it easier to keep in touch with them, because I don’t have their numbers.

Social media has introduced me to different points of views, challenged me to think critically, allowed for me to ask questions & [sometimes] get answers, introduced me to awesome people from all walks of life who in turn, have introduced me to some amazing writers & books, introduced new ideas to me-I could go on and on about social media.

People say I’m on it all the time, and that may be true. I liken it to hanging out with friends 24-7, being in the library or bookstore all day (which is an oasis for me)-the social interaction combined with my insatiable hunger & thirst for knowledge is often satisfied by my participation on social media & blogging websites. My life is enriching, fuller, and even better because of it.

Social media, in many ways, has changed my life. And as an introvert, mostly for the better.