The thin line between Over and Underloving

I don’t know exactly when I put it on, but I took it off this week. I unfastened the strings as my neck and let my cape go wherever the wind carried it.

I feel lighter than I knew I could feel.

I can’t say that I think it is because of where I came from, but maybe more who I decided I wanted to be. I have seen and heard various iteration of the “crab in a bucket” idea. I didn’t want to be held back, I didn’t want to let people get pulled back in either. “Each one, teach one”, “charity starts at home” and other well meaning adages that underline our responsibility toward our race, or culture, ourselves, our family. For me, it  was always family first, because that is what we were taught.

Love meant picking up the slack, helping to make a way out of what appeared to be no way. Love meant slim pickings this month so someone else could live a little better. Love meant looking at money spend as an investment instead of as money squandered. I would sit and look at my budgets – budgets I had prepared for myself and budgets others had prepared for me- and could never quite figure out where the money went.

I wanted to be a cheerful giver. I gave and considered never considered the money a loan. I gave when I had to borrow for one bill, I gave when it hurt to “Thank you” and “I’ll pay you back”. I gave out of obligation, because no one else had it. I gave out of love, because love wanted me to pad the struggle however I could.  What I realized and wouldn’t admit to myself with the giving is that there was a pattern. That somehow, the gift had become an expectation; one I had for myself and one that was held for me.

I loosed that thang this week. I realized that love isn’t always padding the landing. Love can be letting the hard fall come, so that the loved one can have an opportunity to learn from the pain. Love is saying no when it hurts. Love is loving yourself first. Love is deciding to be your own damn hero instead of being Captain Save-A. Love is setting boundaries and meaning it. Love is knowing that a crisis may come, and that I don’t have to be part of the solution if it doesn’t make sense to. Love is letting people learn they are their own first line of defense. Love is being confident that once you teach a man how you fish he will figure out how to make his own catch, that he will tweak what you taught him to make it work for him. Love is knowing that what is meant to fly will fly.

How it make you feel…

I used to celebrate the fact that there wasn’t one person I knew who knew all of me. I learned to compartmentalize myself to stop people from being able to use my insecurities or vulnerabilities to hurt me. Rather than sharing, I would focus on the issues, complaints, concerns, or celebration of the other party I was speaking to.

Then I realized there isn’t a person alive who can say one person knows all of them.

As I step into a season wherein I embrace transparency, I am finding achieving balance difficult.  I have found myself looking for a spark of recognition in the faces of all the men I meet . I have been looking for a reflection of who I want myself to be. As yet, I have yet to see a flicker.

I have always said that patience is not a virtue I own, but I have always meant it in the context of myself and my relationships.  I was impatient with my own growth. If I felt like I understood the lesson intellectually, I wanted to be the change. If I had a different perspective of a problem than all the people around me, I wanted them to hop on the solution I had found. If I identified a need for a change in my relationship, I wanted my partner to change TODAY.  When I decided I could have a forever partner, I was looking for him in the daytime with a flashlight, and hoped he was doing the same. While I can’t say that those desires are a thing of my past, I can say I have found a new peace in the meantime.

A friend told me that in the journey from where/who you were to where you are going/who you are becoming, grace lies in the middle. While the words gave me comfort at the time because I knew that grace was the walk/leap of faith you take while you make the transition, I realized that my expectation of what grace would feel like was wrong.  I thought grace would be synchronistic events that gave me hope and comfort. I thought grace would be support in a form I wanted to see it in. I thought grace would be a chain reaction in which I could see things moving forward slowly but surely. I thought grace would be what kept me going.

It turns out that grace is a stern talking to from a friend. Grace is a day or a number of days where I can say I can relate to the world around me in living color instead of in black and white. Grace is being able to choose a direction when no compass exists. Grace is finding a way to tune into the messages that the universe sends me and to act on the flashes of inspiration and insight I get. Grace is accepting the fact that I know what recognition from a partner feels like, and detaching from my expectations of how and when my partner takes shape. Grace is affirming that I can love without fear, that love and peace are my way of life, and that I in myself am enough and walking confidently in that truth. Grace is waking up with the realization that I don’t have to search every face I see for recognition, because real recognizes real and God’s timing is perfect.

Grace is a balancing act on a course that winds, widens, and flattens out in a timing that no man knows.  I am grateful that I am supported.

 

Why is Cam Newton so Polarized?

Sally Jenkins wrote an article that some viewed as tear down of an amazing athlete. I read it and thought it was a love letter.

Cam Newton is brilliant, beautiful, feared and misunderstood because he is walking unapologetically in his purpose.  Since he was a young boy, he knew that he was destined to walk the path he is now walking. He walked that path, with a confidence that some people mistakenly describe as arrogance. According to this prayer, Cam Newton has never tried to be anyone but himself. In a world where fear of what might or might not happen deters some people from pursuing their dreams, Cam Newton has boldly set out to realize his vision.

While I won’t negate the role that race might play in the criticisms against Cam, I daresay the fact that Cam Newton has not faltered in his belief in his dream despite statistics that would have suggested otherwise has been huge. Cam Newton affirmed himself and laid the groundwork for the position he sits in today. The same people who once labeled Cam a Diva can’t help but give credit where credit is due. Cam walked toward his goal relentlessly and fearlessly. Cam Newton told reporters he would be a great, and this year, he has been. In the face of all naysayers, Cam is poised to become to the first quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy, a collegiate football championship, an NFL MVP and a Superbowl.

What I noted highlighted Sally’s article was despite the fact she criticized him for being arrogant, and egotistical, there was an underlying theme of admiration. Cam walking confidently in his Truth scares people, and fear makes people uncomfortable.  This Black quarterback who has been himself unapologetically throughout his career and has become exactly what he told them he would be is scary, particularly when there has been so much pressure for him to “tone it down” and toe the line. That fear is based in the recognition of someone who acknowledges his gift, and understands the road to achieve his goal may be have bumps along the way.  What they don’t understand is that a roadblock is not a failure; it can either deter you from achieving a goal or renew you tenacity. What they don’t grasp is that we all have a choice, and that God don’t make no mistakes.

Some people have decried Cam Newton as an improper role model for dancing in the end zone and playing a enjoying himself while playing a position that traditionally has more stoic players.  I can’t think of a better role model for anyone than a man who smiles through adversity, does a job he loves and who is walking steadfastly and faithfully toward his dream. I hope that I get to watch Cam Newton make history today. If I don’t, since I know that Cam is walking in his purpose, I have no doubt he will one day.

 

Dab on ’em Cam.

What would you release to attain the things you desire?

I got chewed out a couple days ago.

Thoroughly.

While I didn’t agree with everything that was said, the conversation spurred me into action…and reflection.

I have written a lot on this blog about synchronicity, knowing that God doesn’t bring you situations, places, or people by mistake. As well as I know that, I need to be reminded every once in a while. Sometimes I get a text or read a tweet that speaks to me. Sometimes someone speaks a word to my life. The journey that I am on at present has felt like nothing less than a roller coaster I can’t get off of.

I have been fiercely independent my whole life. While that is a trait that I wear as a badge of honor, I now realize that this ferocity is one that should be tamed. I recently decided that I wanted and could have a partner. Though I have dated with the best of intentions, I can look back on the ways I didn’t, or couldn’t open up all the way.  I think of the times I refused a kind offer for no other reason than “I got it” came out of my mouth reflexively. I think of the times I carried a burden I never shared because I didn’t know what sharing it would look like. I think of the times I got pissed of because I wasn’t asked how I was doing when I’m not sure I would have answered honestly.

Matthew 7:7 says “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. What it doesn’t say is that you need to be willing to do the work to get what you ask for.

Recently, I have been confronting my own definition of femininity. If conventional definitions suggest softness, I’ve never quite found myself in alignment with that. While  I am certainly capable of great softness, the way my tact is set up….my love sometimes feels tough. I want you to know the truth as I see it, and I want you to know it in a way that precludes misunderstanding. Will I tell you if I don’t think we should date? Have I suggested breakup sex when someone’s change didn’t come quickly enough for me? Absolutely. Unapologetically. If women are the illogical, emotional sex, I spit the real rap raw with no emotions involved….and shared my emotionality with the friends I trust. I didn’t show that I was angry when a request was unanswered or when he showed up late. I was unflustered, even if I was hurt.

What I’m learning, though, is that I just because I have done that before doesn’t mean I have to continue to do that. If I consider myself a War Goddess who is ever-ready for battle, I cut first, I cut deeply, and I cut last. What I realize now is that if I cut everyone down, there is no one left to stand up next to me. Cutting everyone down is a way to run from myself and my vulnerability. Rather than trusting someone else with my heart, I would build a fortress around it to save myself the hurt. Rather than trusting the journey, I would get out of the car and look wistfully down the road wondering what could have been. What I understand now is that there is honor and integrity in telling someone “I need you”, and that needing someone else does not diminish my independence. It highlights our interdependence. I can certainly do “bad all by myself”, but I’m at a point where doing it by myself feels lonely.

I want a partner. My journey to becoming the partner I want to be is filled with reminders about being transparent, allowing myself to be emotional. It means sharing my truest feelings. It means being as transparent as I expect my partner to be.   I want to become a general tactician instead of a defensive strategist. I know that this will not be without effort and a commitment to change on my part.

I have no idea what kind of man is a partner to a War Goddess, but I do know he doesn’t have to be a Warrior.

I can’t wait to find out.

 

 

 

In Memoriam

My Red shoes...wear them every work day

I write this post as a premature “RIP” to any woman’s complacency with not knowing her HIV status.

Not just today, but every day, we should make it a priority to ask ourselves and any one with whom we are or might be sexually intimate if they know what his/her status is.

People say ignorance is bliss, but that’s not so when you are playing Russian roulette with your life, or the lives of anyone one you might lay down with, or the lives of the children you might one day hope to bear.

When you look up the infection rate for African American women, the statistics are staggering.  For some reason, they aren’t always enough to move people. So what the CDC says:

                   At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.

AND

                  In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. Most (85%) black women with HIV acquired HIV              through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

People tend to get comfortable in “well, that won’t happen to me” or  “that won’t and hasn’t happened to anyone I know”.

Whose to say it hasn’t? Everyone who is sick doesn’t look sick…and the only real way to know, is to know.

 

Know you status. Make sure anyone you lie down with knows THEIR status. We have to protect ourselves.
statistics taken from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa/

 

The 3 C’s: Part 2

Since people tend not to want to read super long posts on a blog site, I saved the hard hitter for a new post.

So, just in case you are new to this blog, go ahead and catch up here.

Let’s revisit the topic of a woman’s self-sufficiency. Most people would agree that women are taught conflicting messages about who they should grow up to be. Last post -for those who decided not to look back- I talked about a woman’s strength as a weakness. Being unable to ask for financial help was a very superficial example, just a little taste of what I wanted to get into.

Back to the topic of a woman’s strength. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can damn sure speak for me. To be clear, being a strong woman doesn’t lend itself to a singular, succinct definition, but more a collection of actions that I’ve seen or heard about over the years. It means getting up every morning to go to a job you hate to make sure you have food on the table for your family. It means skimping on your meals to make sure you everyone else enough. It means being able to dig inside yourself and make the impossible possible.

Go back and re-read that last line.

On the surface, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Each of us comes into the world alone and leaves it alone, so self-reliance should be valued by each of us…but some of us overvalue it.

When I say some of us, I am talking about women. I know I just lost someone with that…but bear with me.

Every woman should embody strength. Each. And. Every. Woman. We should value our ability to be able to go out and stand on our own two, while realizing that for a woman to be successful in a relationship, there has to be some give and take. I’m not telling any woman out there to rollover for a man, but I am asking every woman reading this to realize that there has to be a compromise to that virtue when it comes to being in and maintaining a successful relationship.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know many women -self included- who feel like they have to have something of substance to bring to a relationship. Beauty fades, and that same spark/passion that can be a driving force at the beginning of a relationship has to be replaced by something stronger as we go along. A lot of times, men and woman don’t exactly see eye to eye about what that means.

The Bible tells us that a good wife “submits to her husband”. Merriam-Webster tells us that to submit means “to yield to governance or authority; to defer to or to consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another”. With that definition, I understand why it can be hard for a woman to even CONSIDER submitting to a man. Here’s the thing: we don’t live in the days of old. Men aren’t the only breadwinners. Women should both value and demand the collegial respect of her partner, while understanding that to receive it, she has to be willing to give as good as she gets. Submission does not have to be absolute, nor should any woman submit to a man who is not worthy in her eyes.

I can’t offer a hard and fast way to decide if a man is worthy. I think it goes without saying (even though I am going to say it anyway) that every man is not worthy. That is a decision that every woman has to make about the man she is with. What I can say is that there is undeniable strength in being able to make that leap to submit to a man. There are countless examples throughout our history: Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, even Michelle Obama. All three women were married to men who accomplished amazing things by putting themselves in a place that was dangerous to themselves and their families. While I don’t doubt that these woman had heated discussions with their men about the decisions they made, I’d also argue that none of these men could have been as great if not for the support of their women, women who were willing to let their men take their places in history, despite their own doubts and fears.

Chopping a man off at the knees, making him wonder what could have been, asking him to conform when a 9-5 stifles his dreams isn’t compromise. Compromise might mean allowing him to take a gamble when the possibility of his failure is more daunting than the spoils of his success. It might mean altering your life plan to allow him to have a chance at that success…but as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In my last post, I said that compromise was arguably more important than communication in the ultimate well-being of a relationship. I take it back. Compromise is key.

The Measure of Real Love (part 1?)

I been chewing on this for a couple of days, so I’m going to gone ahead and let this one ride.

This might end up being two posts, hence the question mark.

When it comes to relationships, there are about as many ways to handle them as there are couples in the world. Some are good while others..not so much. Some are mutually violent while others are one-sidedly so. Some bring out the best in both people while others make one person want to be better. In those relationships where the dynamics are more skewed toward one side or another, it’s more than likely that the relationship will end.

This post isn’t about the dynamics of the relationship as much as it is about what you do when it’s over and why you might respond the way you do. I don’t think there is “a right way” to be in a relationship. For those that work, the people in it will tell you that it IS work…but for those that don’t, you might get a million different answers about what didn’t…but I digress.

A friend and I were talking about the ways that people handle breakups and the why behind it, and she said something that I felt was worth exploring. According to her, the aftermath of the breakup says a lot about the value of the relationship to the people in it. People who were deep in love might wait a while before starting to date because they are holding out hope that the relationship can be revived, while people who weren’t can move on to the next and think nothing of it.

Of course, I don’t see things as black and white as that, particularly for the person who might go on to another relationship to help them get over the past one.

I seem to know a fair amount of people who believe that the way to get over an old relationship is to get into a new one, and from the outside looking it, it seems like they have different motivations.  I know people who are look at breaking up like cowboys look at falling off a horse -you have to get back on to make sure you have the courage to keep getting back on. When I ask them about it, I’ve been told that while getting closure from a past relationship can be a good thing,  sitting and waiting on it to come is not the way to find the person that you can make your forever after with. For other people, I’ve been told it’s so much about looking for the next long-term relationship as finding someone who can put the person you are trying to get over in the back of your mind. While you are learning someone new and bringing them into your life, you don’t have quite as much time to think about the person who just left it.  Those are just two reasons, and we haven’t even touched on the people who serial date because they just need a body to fill a need, whether it be physical, financial, or emotional.

In my mind, pining a way to mourn a love lost. Depending on how the relationship ended and the way the people in the relationship interacted with each other, breaking up means that a part of your life has ended. When you are invested in a relationship, it can be easy to think of the other party the same way you would think of yourself. Instead of planning dinners, meals, trips, dates, or budgets for two, you go back to planning for one. Certain songs or places might make you nostalgic, which can bring painful or pleasantly painful memories, depending on how things developed. For some people, pining is A way, not THE way. Some people redirect that strong emotion to other people, while others work through that grief by losing themselves in other things. Maybe they lose themselves in music or exercise. Maybe they start dating themselves, prioritizing self-indulgence over going out and getting caught up in the dating game right away. Hell, some folk even drink. *shrugs* I’m not judging.

Ultimately, you have to work through the emotion….but some people do it differently. I think that love can only be measured with emotional distance…hindsight is always 20/20.