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.

On gratitude

I have to be coming into one of the most interesting seasons I have known in my life.

When I was younger, I was always afraid of accepting the kindness of others. Even my family. I had been burned by accepting gifts that I didn’t know came with conditions. Conditions that included them being brought up in heated moments. It made me leery of accepting anything that anyone offered me…except food.

My parents made us do chores in my house. We all had daily chores, and deep cleaning that meant washing down all of the baseboards of the house in the spring and right before we did our Christmas decorations. My mother always said “if something happens to us and you have to go live with someone else, I want you to be able to pull your own weight. I don’t want them to think you are burden”. I took that lesson to heart.

That lesson has probably played out in countless different ways in my life. I distinctly remember missing out on an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii that I said no to because I didn’t know how my parents would afford it and I was already living most weekends in the house of the family that offered it. I can think of the times that it played out in my romantic life, too, the times I wasn’t willing to admit I cared about a man for fear he might be too good to be true, the times I chose silence over making my needs known, the times I accepted less than what I knew I deserved to have a piece of something.

Sitting here writing this, I feel amazing blessed to know that this tide has turned. In this season, I went on a trip with 10 dollars to my name and trusted that I would be provided for. I told a man that what he was willing to give was probably enough for someone…but that that someone wasn’t me. I told somebody to “get the fuck out my car” after having tried nicely to say I was finished with the conversation and that I was not going to be bullied or cowed into continuing it. And I didn’t For the people who know me, that may or may not be surprising but that was a HUGE step for me. The biggest things though, what I would call the crown in my cap, is that I have stepped into a season of fearlessly asking for help.

I used to think it was pride that would stop me from asking for help. I know now that it was because I was afraid of burdening someone with my problems. I never wanted to take the food out of someone else’s house to put it into mine; not the food, not the gas, and damn sure not the rent. I am so grateful for having turned the corner, and so grateful for the beauty that is now showing up in my life.

As my dog is laying here curled up in the crook of my knee, I had to come back and edit this post. This dog came into my life when I was wondering about my ability to be selfless and showed me that I have the capacity in spades. He misses me when I’m gone. He had his head in my lap for most of the time I was typing this post. He randomly curls up in my lap, gives me a hug, steals a kiss, lays down ON me while I’m trying to do yoga or pushups or lays down with me any time I am on the floor. I have no idea what I did to deserve this kind of love…but I receive.

I changed my mind, and my life is changing. I can’t wait to see what is up the pike.

What’s your function?

For the past 4 months, I have really been focusing on my purpose. I have dreams for myself, just like we all do, but I feel like I have been fighting an uphill battle to realize them.

I know I am not alone in this. My sister-friends, the people I follow on twitter and my coworkers have been working on the same thing.

I took a job a bit over a year ago, and it felt like a blessing. I wanted a change in my life. I am in healthcare, and while I found my job to be impactful, I found myself angry at the health care disparities I was facing daily. I hated that I had to fight to get visits for the patients who needed me most, while I could see patients who had plateaued for visits on end.  I wanted to move to a job that let me make a real difference, one that would let me see the difference I made day-to-day…and then I was presented with an opportunity.

I was blessed with a job I didn’t meet the qualifications for. I sat in 2-2.5 hour California gridlock to interview 4 times. I thanked God for the pay increase, and then I started.

I soon realized that the disparity was bigger than in the provision of care; the disparity extended to training the providers of care. I got angry about the money I wasn’t making, about the financial struggles I thought I had moved away from, about the difference I didn’t feel like I was making. I burst a blood vessel in my eye. I said “fuck this” more times than I could count. I quit in real life and in my mind to go back to what was comfortable, but I never fully pulled the trigger. I had the same conversation for what felt like a million times, about how I wasn’t valued, about how things weren’t changing. I took it to God, my mentors, my dad, and my trusted counselors….and still I stayed.

A friend/sister/Bf/trusted counselor reminded me recently that I was the devil in the details. Throughout, she has reminded me to take a breath, see it through, and pushed me to stretch, especially when it was most uncomfortable.

Reflecting on it, I realize that it was in my struggles that I found my purpose.

I personify the voice unheard, the story untold. I have the hard conversations. I hold the mirror to people’s faces when they would rather look way. I ask people to confront themselves: the time they feel they do or don’t have, the support they feel they are missing, the gaps between knowledge and application. I represent the path less taken, the unknown unknown, the jump between who you were, who you are, and who you are going to be. I have taken disdain, anger, pain, sadness, fear, and indignation and turned it into therapeutic tools. I bridged the gap between empowering and enabling. I have been silent when I wanted to shout to the mounts and stood my ground when other people would be silent because it is easy. I have chosen to be effective instead of being right. I have chosen to set the bar high when other people would accept mediocrity. I have asked for accountability when other people would accept excuses.

My job allows me to help people turn crutches into hurdles they can overcome. My job has allowed me to ask people to stretch beyond what they think is possible. In that, I have found my purpose. My job forces me to acknowledge -and to help others acknowledge- the grey in a world that is easier to digest in black and white. My job has helped me make square pegs pass through round holes. My job has helped me realize I vision I have for the program and the school I serve, as well as to navigate the loopholes that exist in the systems we work, play and live in.

The last year has reinforced for me that the detours we take along the way have meaning if we are willing to live in the moment. I realize that every step I take has prepared me for what is to come, and I am learning to find comfort in that even when things are hard. It is in the most difficult season that we learn the lesson if we are open. I realize that God answer our prayers in Divine Timing, even when it isn’t our timing. Especially then.

I have blogged about the ways that God instills divine Mastery, and my life, my journey, my path is a testament and my testimony to that. I see the ways that my experiences help me personify the voice, have the hard conversations, and bridge the gap. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard, but I’d be damned if I said it wasn’t worth it.