The Cost of Consistency

Consistency is one of the most important parts of all of the relationships we have: relationships with loved ones, lovers and self. Consistency requires discipline and a clear sense of ones values. Many times the conflict that arises in our relationships arises from a divergence in values that we believe are shared. While the word we might use to describe a particular value might be the same, the degree to which we exercise it in an interaction might differ considerably. The value that we apply in a particular interaction and our understanding of the differences in our shared values contribute much to the cost of consistency.

Many times we find ourselves doing something because that is the way we have seen it done, as in parenting .We are authoritative without explanation and often expect obedience despite the fact we are raising little humans who experience the world by the opportunities we do and don’t allow them to take. We sometimes wrongly interpret questions as defiance instead of genuine curiosity. We get angry with them for questioning our authority, instead of considering the fact that an explanation of our rationale could be sufficient. In consistency being seen as the “boss” in the relationship, we often rob ourselves of the opportunity to get to know the children we are raising.

The same hold true in our other relationships. We might decide there are only certain roles we are allowed to fulfill in relationship. We decide that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We decide that men can’t be in touch with their emotions and that women must only nurture, can never show tough love. We decide that parents must only support our dreams, sacrifice and parent us throughout their lives- even when our own parents haven’t ever completely shown up in that regard. In demanding consistency we do not allow room for deviation; we don’t always allow people to show up as who they are.

What can we do to change this? We have to examine the root of our desire for consistency. What is it that we believe to be true about ourselves, our relationships, our world that we allow to hold us captive? What is at risk if we decide to change our minds?

In the unraveling, we have to ask ourselves about the motivation or the “why” behind our actions. Are we angry with children, partners or friends for not appreciating the effort it took us to buy a gift, to provide a lifestyle, to show up in a certain way? Are we seeking some measure of external validation for the choices we have made?

What we seek in asking ourselves these questions is balance. What we find in answering the questions might be unsettling. We might find that we aren’t very confident in the “why “ behind our actions. We might find that some of the things we believe that we do for benefit of others are also a way we prove to ourselves that we are the person, parent, or friend we wish we had or want to be. We might find that we don’t feel like we have the freedom to who we are, instead of who society tells us we should be.

When the doing of a thing, the repetition of an act becomes a habit it becomes something we do without thinking. Sometimes the cost of consistency is thoughtless reaction to and interaction with the world around us.

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Men -vs- man

It has been a topic of conversation for at least as long as I have been alive. Before I knew what the words meant, I was singing along to songs that ingrained a message to catchy beats, clever lyrics and soul-touching passion. I eavesdropped on conversations that my elders had and learned a refrain that I have seen in more songs, more online arguments, and heard in many more conversations, a refrain I chose to release. What refrain?

Men ain’t sh*t.

Many times it is much easier to generalize than to be specific. From generalizations we are able to make rules that give a semblance of order and foster a sense of control to the world we live in. For example, we tell young children not to talk to strangers and often have to console them when they are hesitant to talk to people they don’t know that include family or friends. It is easier to introduce the exception rather than to make a rule so specific that it is hard to explain and hard to remember.

Perhaps that is why it is easier to make “ain’t sh*t” men the rule rather than the exception. Women who are happily coupled with men who are an exception are still able to join in this refrain, a rallying cry for women who have been wronged by men…or specifically, an individual woman who has been wronged by an individual man.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend, we discussed an unexpected ending to a would-be “fairy-tale ending” to a courtship: Man and Woman were friends, Man proclaimed his love for Woman to anyone who would listen, Woman agreed to date man and man became distant. Man went from calling often to feeling crowded and needing his space. A woman to Woman moment happened when a phone call revealed Man tried to sleep with woman (see what I did there?). I listened my friend be angry, and then I listed to that anger, fear and distrust transfer itself to doubt about the man who was courting her. It was in that moment that I realized the potential damage we do when we make rules to keep ourselves safe.

Can we truly allow ourselves to fall in love if we are always waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop? If we as women or men who love men convince ourselves that they are not capable of receiving and reciprocating our love…then what are we doing when we say we want to be in a loving romantic relationship? Are we setting ourselves up to be unsuccessful, to live in a world where we meet men who show us that we are right?

I offer this as an alternative; take each man for an individual. Live outside of the rules and meet that man where he is. If he, through his own efforts, shows you he ain’t sh*t, let that be a label for him and him alone. Name the ain’t sh*t man instead of making men the boogeyman. Listen to that voice that tells you when something is wrong.  Be willing to separate fear from truth, to be courageous and gamble at the risk of great reward.

I know that this in and of itself is not easy, because it means conversations with yourself and conversations with friends and family must change. It means revising both how you show up and what you tolerate from a man in courtship and relationship. The change will start with you and continue from there.

Good luck.

 

For all the people who believe a mirror shows you who you are

I have always had difficulty with the idea that a person can come in your life to be a mirror. More than anything, I think it is because of how I thought a mirror works.I always known a mirror reflected you back to you, that you looked in a mirror and saw yourself. What I know now is that – in the case of people – that is not the whole truth.A mirror reverses images from front to back…which means your reflection is shown backwards. When you look at yourself in a mirror, you never see yourself the way other people see you.

It took a conversation with a friend for me to really wrap my head around what this meant, and by conversation I mean being a 3rd party to a presently unfolding interaction between herself and an ex. I will share some background, because I think it helps to clarify the point.

My friend was in a relationship. While she may have had reason to believe the relationship was not exclusive, she had held more hope that is was. She elevated his good deeds over his not-so-good deeds. She remembered things, focused more of her attention on things like surprise get aways more strongly than him not asking about occurrences or people he should have asked about. This might have gone on indefinitely, might still be going on if not for her being surprised by another woman while in the bed of the man she loved.

She left, time passed. She grew…older, wiser, spiritually and more in love with herself. She moved from judgement to discernment, moved from mourning the relationship to recognizing it as an important stepping stone to embracing the woman she wanted to become. And then, to he came back. First, it was fairly innocuous. There were sporadic texts or Facebook messages to say hey, or liking Facebook posts. Then there were real attempts to have conversation, see how she was doing. Because she is a gracious woman, because she is loving woman, because she is human and because he didn’t go away despite being asked to and being blocked she made the time to listen to what he had to say. He weaved a tale of woe and deceit featuring himself as the victim. He regaled her with tales of how he had changed and how he wanted the opportunity to show her just how much he had. He reminded her of the happier times they had shared and promised her that they could be things of the present and the future if she were willing to give him another chance. In her response, she taught me what a mirror truly is.

She looked him in his eyes and shared with him the otherside -or the underside- of the relationship they shared. She told him that she had been in a relationship where she willingly played blind because of how she thought relationships had to be.She told him that she realized the part she had played and that in this new understanding of herself she was both unwilling and unable to play that part again.  She told him that though she had found forgiveness, she thought too much of herself to try to be in a relationship with someone who had so grossly undervalued her worth.

Metaphysically, mirrors reflect Truth. They show what is. We don’t always – and it may be more true to say we don’t often – fully acknowledge truth in the moment. Usually retrospect helps us to distinguish a Truth that fully reveals itself across several moments in several relationships. It could be because we are in denial because Truth shows us something we would rather not know about ourselves. It could because of  fear the work that goes into making the change to become who we want to be, the people we may lose, the relationships we may have to redefine or fear that we may not be up for the challenge.

When a mirror shows you a Truth that you must change, you do. No matter how long it takes or how many setbacks pop up along the way. Until then the Truth waits for you until you are ready to let it set you Free.

 

The art of foreplay

So, let’s talk about foreplay.

 

If we are related, you should consider stopping here.

 

To me, foreplay is one of the most awesome forms of intimacy. Foreplay isn’t just the kisses to the neck, ear or thigh that come before the “it and the thing.” Foreplay is what helps me decide that you can trace my body with your tongue. It is also lets me know if you will be selfish, attentive, timid, confident or if you will worship my body like the temple it is.

 

I’m about to hip you to some game.

 

Foreplay starts at hello. It is the spark I feel when we make eye contact for the same time. Or when you hold my waist as we dance. Or when you open a door for me as I pass. Foreplay is the way you acknowledge your attraction to me. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you say as long as your eyes tell me you mean it. You might get extra points for an accent. Foreplay is how you let me know you want to get to know me. Did you ask me to put your number in my phone and call you? Did you trade instagram names with me? Did you give me a business card? Did you invite me to get to know you better over coffee or a meal? Did we have an easy back and forth flirtation?

 

 

Did you text me or call me to follow up? Did you ask me questions trying to find out who I am or were you more focused on what I do? Did you make overt sexual advances? Did we talk on the phone like teenagers and fall asleep on each other or was our conversation just long enough for us to confirm when/where we would meet for our next interaction? Did we talk about what we like in a potential partner? Did you talk bad about relationships and the people you dated in the past? Does the tone of our conversation suggest you feel that you are the prize?

 

When we meet up for our first date, did you pick something that shows me who you are and what you like or did you show me that you listened when I shared my love for cars, delicious food, video games, anime, seafood or anything else I sounded really excited about? Were you on time? Did you pull out my chair? Did you acknowledge the effort I put into looking nice for you? Did you look at your phone the whole time or were you present in the moment with me? Did you look in my eyes when you spoke to me? Were you rude to the wait staff? Did you tip? When we get ready to leave is our farewell akward? Do we have a physical chemistry that invites us to hug or kiss before we part ways?

 

Did you check to make sure I got home safe? Are you consistent in your interactions with me?

 

While doing some of these things are a sure turnoff, some of them are undeniable turn ons. Sometimes none of these things matter –even if they are warning signs about the kind of lover you will be- because our coitus isn’t about you. I might choose you for any number of reasons, but your foreplay doesn’t lie.

 

Random Musings- The lost files OR What I learned about love

I have an amazing father. I have written about him on this blog. I thank God for him every time I think about it.

I also have a biological father.

The man I call my father has been in my life since before I can remember. He has coached me through my worst moments and cheered me on through my best. He helped to teach me the meaning of family, the meaning of loyalty, and the meaning of personal integrity/responsibility.  He told me he would get up on the down stroke for me and has NEVER given me a reason not to think he wouldn’t. When I was going to do a semester abroad, he forced me to reconsider my chosen country because ” I can’t come get you like that dude in Taken”. He has visited me almost everywhere I have lived except Mexico, North Carolina, and California (which he has a real fear about).

My biological father did none of that. The only  childhood memories I have of him are:

  1. going to visit him and my step-mother at the time and telling my step-sister I wanted to go home ( I was 6)
  2. my mother cussing him out after he hurt my feelings at my sister’s 6th grade graduation (I don’t even remember how he did anymore, and I didn’t remember this until I was reminded)
  3. him writing me this letter about his life (I remember it being the worst this I ever read, but he did send me a picture)
  4. him turning down my invitation to my high school graduation
  5. him telling me he paid child support and so he was a father to me….the number he owes could buy me an amazing car
  6. him calling me on my 18th birthday…on a private number that i had no idea how he got, and being surprised that he knew when my birthday was.

My mother and father did not speak ill of my biological father. While my mother did tell me about the man she knew him to be, she also encouraged me to build my own relationship and to find out for myself. My father did the same. Because of their encouragement, because of my sister’s encouragement and because I was never entirely sure that I wasn’t missing something  about myself by not knowing him I tried to. I never agreed to go to visit him because I had to fly and I needed to be in control of when I could leave.

Fast forward 15 years. I take a job in the Northern most city in California, and suddenly the distance to his home is drivable. A day trip. On a random Wednesday in July, driving back to the city from Oregon, I call his phone and commit myself to a date. I plan a trip to visit from Thursday- Sunday.

Immediately after I do so, I call my father. “Dad, I told B*** V***** I’m going to come up there to see him”.  My father doesn’t miss a beat. “How do you feel about it?”. I stop to ask myself  how I really feel about it for the first time. “Excited…and scared. I’ll let you know how it goes”. We continue our conversation for a bit longer before we get off the phone. I consciously decide not to tell my mother until after my trip because it is near her birthday and I want her to enjoy herself, because she already has plans.  I know she will worry.

Soon enough the day for the trip comes. I am on the phone talking to my best friend about nothing and everything and then I pull up outside the house. Our conversation has turned to the one thing we have avoided talking about the whole time. She says ” You know, I hope that no matter what I do, my son will love me and know I did my best”.  Before I know it I am crying. I say “I can still go home, I don’t have to do this” and then he comes out onto the porch and I feel like he looks straight into my car and the walks back in the house. I wipe my face. I decide I have come to far to turn back. I get out of my car and walk to the door.

I knock on the door and he comes back out. I find myself staring into a face I don’t remember, with a nose that looks like mine. My mother has always told me that I look like him, and now I understand why she would say that (even though only our noses are different). I see my cheek bones, my eye lashes, my nose.  I see why my smile takes up 3/4 of my face. I see that I am the perfect combination of my biological parents. All of a sudden, I am tired.

We walk in the house and I take a cursory glance, but I am really too nervous to process anything. I am holding my bags as if they would protect me if the need should arise, but he asks me to put them down in the room he has told me his mine o for the weekend and I do. I hear him call a cousin to tell him I am there and make plans for us to meet. He is sitting a the table.  I sit on the couch. “I’m happy to see you,” he says. I smile, unable to say the same. I’m not exactly happy, and I’m not going to lie. The TV is on breaking the silence. I have never been so excited to guess along with the contestants on Wheel of Fortune.

Before  I know it, we are his car going to meet a cousin I have only seen in pictures. I was months old. We pull up and I am re-energized. Wired. We walk in the house, and he introduces me to my cousin and disappears.  I stand by the door, at the counter. A woman and a teenager I have never seen before are sitting at the table. Their names don’t quite register after the introduction, but the woman’s question’s do. “So when is the last time you saw your dad?” My mind flies to Cleveland, Ohio where my father is.  I think of my most recent trip home and a million memories flash before my eyes, but I know that is not who she is asking me about. I answer, “When I was six?”. My cousin jumps in quickly, “Oh no, your dad saw you at your sister’s 6th grade graduation”. All of a sudden, memories of come flooding back to me. I remember feeling nervous about accepting her invitation. I remember wondering why he could come back to see her when he couldn’t seem to get right when I asked. I remember picking my dress with care. I remember walking into the school and feeling the same shock I felt that day. I say, “sometimes people don’t remember things that are insignificant.” As an I aside I add, “sometimes, people block out painful memories”.  I am never so happy to have dinner served so I don’t have to talk about this anymore. I stand and eat my food, despite invitations to the table. I am on guard and even though I didn’t drive, I am gone if this shit gets stupid.

Dinner is finished and I have a chance to talk to my cousin. I ask questions, careful to steer the conversation to the family history I do not know to make sure I am not put on guard the same way I was before.  Before I know it, it is well after 2 am. It is time to go, and we make plans to get together the next day. I call my father to tell him I made it safety and that I will call him tomorrow.  He’s only half awake, but he says okay.

When I get in bed, I am not sleepy. I am prayful. I ask God to make it clear to me why I agreed to come here. I put on a sleep meditation and morning comes before I know it. The sun wakes me. It is still to early for me to be up and about, but I feel the need to call my brother. It is 8 am EST and he answers. He had to take my mother to the airport and is on his way home. I tell him where I am. A moment passes. He says, ” I hope that works out for you” and I hear the promise of hell to pay if it doesn’t.

I have a moment to myself to really look at the house. I see the picture from the day my cousin reminded me of on a shelf, more evidence that it happened. My face is smiling back at me and I remember being happy to celebrate my sister’s special day. I go back to lay down. I don’t fall back asleep. I go to workout to work off the excess energy.

I am building my confidence to ask the questions that really brought me here, questions that I am sure he will answer to my face.

We are driving. We have been talking about family dynamics I have never known and I feel like the moment is better than any other.  I ask, “Why didn’t you come to the things I invited you to?”.  He answers, ” Because your mother wouldn’t let me stay at your house. I would have slept on the floor if I had to.” I don’t know whether to be disappointed, angry, or surprised at his stupidity. I think of the many times my mother, my father and brothers have shown me that they would fight to protect my feelings  when I was both bothered and unbothered and wonder why this man who has been the cause of so many hurts would throw himself in the lion’s den. I ask, “so, you are pretty much all or nothing, huh?” He thinks about it and replies, “Yeah”. I speak before I can stop myself , “That’s pretty stupid”.  What he says next doesn’t really matter, but he does apologize for being absent.

The weekend continues, and I call my father daily and thank him for being present in my life. During my visit, I wonder why my biological father can’t talk to me unless I initiate the conversation.  After 2 more sleepless nights, I get ready to get back on the road back to the life I knew.  When I leave, he hugs me.  He says, ” I don’t know what you have done with your life, but you seem happy. Keep it up”.  I thank him for trying on, because I know this was hard for both of us.

My mother’s birthday has passed, and I finally called her to tell her what I’ve done. I tell her why I didn’t tell her. I answer her barrage of questions and tell her that I couldn’t understand how she loved me until I took this trip, met this man, heard about his past and learned what it cost her to let me make my own decision about him. She talks to me for 2 hour before she decides I am really okay, because she is ready to correct his ass if I am not.

I am grateful for the space my family held for me until I was ready. I didn’t know I was whole until I went to make sure nothing was missing.   I didn’t know until I saw what people sacrificed to let me live out loud. I know their love is deep and strong. I know that my partner has to give me this…or better.

On Being a woman

We are all socialized beings. This socialization impacts the decisions we make in life, love, and relationships. We are influenced by the relationships we see, the religions or spiritual leanings we hold dear and the media we consume: written, auditory, and visual.

I am woman, and while I acknowledge that trying to speak for all women is a large undertaking, that won’t stop me from trying to do so here. Generally speaking, women are socialized to be nurturers and givers. We are taught to take care of home and hearth and taught that our goals, though they may also include occupational goals, should also include being someone’s mother and wife.We are taught that being anything other than feminine is generally an affront to society’s sensibilities. How we take on and fulfill these roles is also influenced by our individual personality, race, socioeconomic status and life experiences. Our definitions of femininity are influenced by the same.

The fulfillment of the roles in itself can be problematic, because it is likely that we get conflicting messages throughout our socialization. For those of us who are told that we can be anything we want to be, we are taken aback when people are surprised by our mechanical, scientific, mathematical, or athletic abilities.  Why is it that we would rather work on a car than cook a 5 course meal? Why would you work in hard labor when you could do a job that might keep your hands soft? Why would you take on a hard science major when you could work in the soft sciences or the arts?  Why do you have an interest in sports when you could be an interior decorator or a fashion designer? Faced with these seeming contradictions we have are all faced with navigating a world that questions our choices. Individually, we make decisions about how much we will conform, or if we conform at all.

If we chose not to conform, we might find ourselves wondering about our choice, especially when our lived experiences tell us we have chosen a harder road. Professionally, we might take the job in IT that makes us feel alive, but find that our day-to-day interactions make us reconsider the position. In predominately male environments, our contributions might be diminished, belittled, or that they are attributed to other males on our teams. We might find that we are paid less than male counterparts who contribute little more than male genitalia. Voicing our concerns might be viewed as an emotional outburst, no matter how eloquently they are voiced. Still, we might chose to fight through, and ultimately distinguish ourselves through hard work and perseverance in what might be correctly deemed  a hostile work environment.

In love or relationship, we might find ourselves fighting a different, but not less difficult battle. For those of us who have a religious background, we are taught that men are the head. Having both the confidence and the wisdom to ascertain that a man is worthy of the position, might cause our femininity to be called into questions. Having standards for them men we deal with might cause potential partners to tell us that we are “too much” or have them telling us our standards are too high. Voicing our concerns about the fit of our partner- a partner who values the fullness of the person we are- might result in well-intentioned advice that falls flat. Women are advised to resolve themselves to the infidelity of their partners, not realizing that making a single exception can result in infidelity becoming the rule, or an accepted practice in a relationship. Women who are advised to stay in relationships where men are physically or verbally abusive because “he is a good man” can end up severely emotionally scarred or dead. Women who are advised to stay in a relationship because a man looks good on paper can end up in feeling trapped because all of their emotional or physical needs are not met. Women who embrace their sexuality might be shamed, called promiscuous or worse because they are in touch with the things that give their body pleasure. As a result, we might decide to stay silent, hide or otherwise diminish ourselves to fit in a box that was never our own design.

In my mind, women are asked to die small deaths everyday. Some of us willingly throw ourselves on the knife to get and keep a man, while others of ourselves find ourselves making smaller, but impactful cuts. We might cut away at our truths by keeping silent about our intelligence. We might agree to just wanting to be casual to keep the company of a man when we desire life-long partnership and children. We might be coerced into ideologies about home, or sexual relationships we do not want. Some of us do so without so much as a peep, while others of us may dam our concerns behind a levy that cannot help but break. All of us have choice, and the choice itself is beautiful. In my mind, allowing the dam to break is the more beautiful choice, as it allows for rebirth and reincarnation. When we learn what we cannot tolerate, it makes us more able to appreciate a partner who appreciates us as we live in the fullness of ourselves. It makes it easier to say no to a partner that offers less than what you desire, makes it easier not to settle for less than we desire. It isn’t easy, it can be downright ugly in the process, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth it if we are willing to learn from our missteps, trust our intuition, and wait for the partner we deserve and desire. It’s a beautiful struggle, and I am grateful that it is mine.

I’m going home

A friend challenged me to define home this evening. As I sat and pondered the question, I realized that I haven’t had a place to call home in a long time. I have lived in many places, but I always stopped just short of making a place my own. I bought art I never hung. I dreamed of color schemes I never applied to the wall. I never had a house-warming. I inhabited spaces, giving myself just enough creature comfort to be able to tolerate the space. I was always thinking about what I needed in place of what I had in order to make the space my own.

In considering what home is, I thought about all of the spaces I have visited that felt like they were someone else’s home. I found there were personal touches, that only got augmented as people’s tastes changed…really, as they changed. I found that people did the work -whether physical or mental- to reimagine a blank canvas into a masterpiece. In the more than 10 years I lived away from home, I have never undertaken that task.

Even in my childhood residence, my room was not my own. I always considered in borrowed space. I didn’t get to pick the furniture, the room setup or the design. I said yes to the designs that were presented to me. In times since, I have lived in borrowed spaces, spaces in which I didn’t have the control or the inclination to invest in.  I left the walls drab white. I didn’t put up pictures or paintings. I didn’t think about the touches that would make the space tell my story.

As I am on the verge of buying my own home,  the challenge was more than worthwhile. I no longer live in any of the cities that raised me, though I would posit the city in which I currently reside can account for remarkable growth: spiritual, personal, financial, and emotional. Still, the spaces I had occupied were drab. While I bought things that afforded me opportunities to work, cook, and sleep as I desired, they never expressed the me that I was nor the me that I am always becoming.

I sat and contemplated the question and thought about the feeling and I realized that home is love. I felt like I was home when I flew into Chicago an caught the first glimpse of the skyline. I felt like I was home when I got the first bite of a Polish Boy, a corned beef sandwich or started talking noise -shit- to my brothers and sisters. I felt like I was home when I felt love in and from my surroundings.

I realized that as I have been looking at properties I haven’t been considering the right things.  I looked at the price. I looked at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. I looked the size of the closets.  I looked at the counter space in the kitchen. I looked at the size of the closets. I looked at the laundry space. I considered whether or not the backyard had enough space for my dog to run. The thing I never considered though, is whether I could love in the space. I didn’t consider whether or not I felt love in the space. I considered the space with my mind, and not my heart.

Now I’m looking for a marriage of the two.