” Hov did that, so hopefully you wouldn’t have to go through that”- Jay Z
From the time we are babies, our parents try to protect us from a great many things. Germs. Injury. The world. They tell us stories, they teach us a great many things with the intention of teaching us to navigate the sometimes unfriendly world we live in. They teach us not to talk to strangers, to do things the safe way, and make the choices they would have made if they had the opportunities they often strive to give us.
Protection meant different things in different times. In my grandmother’s lifetime, protection meant turning a blind eye to side families and inadvertently teaching their children to do the same. It sometimes meant asking another family member to raise children you didn’t necessarily want to have, children that may have been the result of rape, lack of choices/alternatives for contraceptives or an acquiescence to a social role as woman that turned a nose down at women who chose to follow their hearts or their passions instead of deciding to have a child.
And those children grew up. As they grew, maybe they felt unwanted, angry, or unloved. They lived with grandparents or other family members who took on the role of parents at a time when they could have been enjoying their golden years. Grandparents who loved the children, but maybe didn’t fully have the vigor or the desire to continue to raise children. Grandparents that may have spoken of their mothers with disdain, or not spoken of them at all. Grandparents who may have believed that children should be seen and not heard, who may not have believed that children had feelings about abandonment that they could not articulate, especially when they could see their parents appearing to enjoy a life that included them peripherally, rather than intentionally.
Some of those children were able to confide in other family members, while others were left to their own devices. They made rules to protect themselves, to keep themselves safe from feeling that kind of hurt or rejection and called it love. Some of them had children and taught it to their children, wanting to protect them from a word that allowed people to become parents that didn’t love their children, hoping to show them a love they did not feel they had ever known. Sometimes, that resulted in penalizing their children for adhering to rules they could not know, did not understand, who in turn, excelled, rebelled, or moved away to protect themselves.
One thing some of those parents did along the way was to allow their children to have their own voices, either by not stifling the voices their children already had or by talking to them, answering their questions to the best of their abilities, and telling them when they didn’t know the answers. Others tried to punish their children and make them take on their worldview, to protect them from a world that would not protect them. Some of those children bent and silences themselves. Some escaped through drugs, sex, scholarship or athleticism.
We are in a renaissance now, wherein those children, us and our parents, get to redefine protection. Rather than keeping us away, we get to create opportunities to explore the world around us, to learn to trust our own intuition and inner guidance and do away with social roles, expectations, and standards that didn’t and don’t serve us. We get to decide to live in world of our own making. We just have to decide if we can live outside of the protection we have always known and hold firm in that decision even when it feels like that protection was safe because it was the devil we did know…instead of the devil we don’t.
The payoff will be worth it.
As I type this, I am waiting to hear back from an opportunity that could change my life. One that could move me from doing what I ‘have’ to do to doing what I want to be doing.
It is a decision that has been a long time coming. Looking back on it, I put a lot of things in front of pursuing my passions: work, family, status, trying to live the life my parents, grandparents, and siblings could be inspired by. When enough people tell you enough times you have to be something, you internalize it. Failure feels like it isn’t an option.
So I did the things I thought were the right things. I was blessed through them too, even though I changed my mind a lot along the way. Every time I changed my mind, I got another opportunity to make a choice and to change my mind again. I only dreamed big enough to get to whatever I thought the next step would be and I was supported along the path. I would finish a degree and move on to the next thing that I thought would bring me closer to being what I was told I had to be…until school was an option I couldn’t afford.
After that, I worked. I put the two degrees I had to use, all the while waiting for the next opportunity to open up. I liked my job, I was good at it, but I still didn’t feel like I was fully doing what I needed to do. I took jobs to see the country and make money. I was looking for home, I was looking for a place to settle, and more than anything, I was looking for me. I bought things, took trips, had experiences, and found pieces of myself. I made my home in different states, found framily in places I never thought I would, and lived some dreams that didn’t really fully belong to me.
The biggest thing I realized was that ‘failure’ brought me closer to myself. The jobs I didn’t get, the money I didn’t have, the relationships that weren’t quite right taught me so much more than getting what I asked for. I learned about what I value and what I didn’t. I learned that when I didn’t really have the room to receive what I asked for, even when I got it, it cost too much to keep it. Or I didn’t really appreciate it. When the manifestation of the desire is the end goal, you don’t think anything about what it takes to stabilize it or to keep it, and it costs you on both sides. In most conversations about manifestation, it ends with the receipt of the desire, be it love, money, or a job. No one tells you that desire begets desire because getting what you want opens you up to dreams you may not have ever thought were possible for you before…which opens you up to more of yourself.
It’s not always pretty, and it’s damn sure not always fun, but dream big and be brave enough to pursue your dreams. If nothing else, you find more of you, and that’s priceless.
A child is conceived and a dream is born. It isn’t fully fleshed out, but the seed is planted. Parents-to-be think about the parents the ways life will change, the parents they want to become and speculate on the life they may bring into the world. They may reject the responsibility and decide to defer the dream to a later date. This might be a decision that is reached individually, as a couple or a result of other external influences.
That dream doesn’t die. It may become a random day dream, a personal anniversary of a choice that could have had a different outcome or a commitment to be ready the next time. While it doesn’t come to fruition, it doesn’t disappear.
For those who press forward because of or despite circumstances that seem to foreshadow the work that is to come, that dream continues to grow. It grows from an idea to a being that impacts hunger, thirst, emotions and breast size. It is pictured on an ultrasound, responds to certain songs, foods and voices. It may change eating, drinking and fitness habits. It may cultivate support, indifference or a love beyond one that the parents have ever known, but the seed is planted and continues to grow no matter the soil.
Finally, the child is born. The dreams are stronger now, because the possibility has become a reality. Parents teach their children what to do and what not to do based on social propriety, their values and beliefs and their fears. Discipline is handed out or deferred due to the parent’s own past traumas and what they feel “is the right thing to do”. Parents begin to shape a path and continue to shape a path for the child, sometimes without realizing the path asks the child to conform to what they believe he or she should be rather than cultivating the child’s own beliefs, talents or truths. While it is not necessarily ill-intentioned, the harm can come from the child deciding -whether by choice or perceived lack thereof- that it is easier to strive to realize the dream that has been in motion since before they were born than to fight against it and risk disappointment, estrangement, or failure in chasing a dream of their own choosing. Besides, it is also true that while some parents can, will, and do finance the dreams they have for their children, that support can be absent in the face of perceived insolence or lack of gratitude.
As a result, some people reach adulthood without being able to share or be themselves fully or completely. They do what they are “supposed to do” instead of doing what they are called to do. They watch others live lives -whether they are what others would call successful or not- of their own choosing and marvel at the freedom to chose to love, live and be authentically. They write to-do lists they never plan to complete. They live one life in public and one life behind closed doors. They self-medicate through drugs and alcohol at happy hours, parties and home alone. They go through the motions, accomplish without any real fulfillment and check off boxes that don’t spark joie de vivre but may inspire public or private conversations about how well they are doing when wellness is not an adjective they would pick to describe their state of being.
Then it happens. Maybe it is a conversation they have or are party to. Maybe it is seeing a crystal. Maybe it is losing a job.Maybe it being sick and tired of being sick and tired. The world shifts to allow the person an opportunity to start to LIVE, on his or her own terms, and they are both ready and willing to take it. Maybe it starts as a haircut, a career change or meeting a person whose interactions make them feel like a self they have never known and would like to get to know. The fear of not missing out on getting to know this version of self outweighs the fear of life-disruption and adolescence begins anew as they explore this feeling.
On the other side is the authentic self.
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.
Sometimes we miss out blessing because it doesn’t show up exactly the way we think it should. Don’t be married to the idea of how it will show up…and be willing to trust your intuition. If divine order and perfect timing exist-and they do- then no matter how good or bad it looks as it develops, the thing you ask for will show up exactly when and how it is supposed to. Don’t get lost in the details. Our God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent and He wants better for you than you know you can have. You may not understand every step in the journey, but enjoy it. You are divinely loved, provided for, and protected.
Just before the New Year came in, a friend asked me about my New Year’s Resolutions. I hadn’t given it any thought, so I told her I didn’t know what they would be yet. What I didn’t know is that I had been preparing myself for what would be my resolution throughout 2015.
Reflecting on it, 2015 was a hell of a year for me, professionally, personally, romantically, and financially. There were many highs, and there were many lows. It was also the year in which I have attended the most weddings in a single year; I attended 4. At each wedding, I found myself in a different mindset. At the first wedding, I was excited for the couple and found myself excited about what the rest of the year would bring. At the second I was excited because their path to the alter was not a conventional one. Being at that wedding felt like a testament to I Corinthians 13:7 and I wondered how the verse would play out in my life. At the third wedding, I was happy for the couple and a bit pissed off that I didn’t have a date. At the fourth – a beautiful New Years Eve Wedding- I was happy for the couple and wondering how I had watched 2 of my very close male friends get married and didn’t have a prospect on the horizon.
For me, 2015 was also a year that I learned quite about about myself and my beliefs. I have always believed in the Power of Manifestation, and I can say up until 2015, I was a master at it. With confidence, I asked something and I got it. I said what I wanted, and so it was…until 2015. I talked to my sister circle about how there had to be levels to this ish, because I had no idea how I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I am grateful for the many conversations that allowed me reach a new understanding.
So….I didn’t think I could have a partner until 2015. I dated, I loved, I lost, and thought that was what life had for me. I realized, not only could I have one, but that there was work required on my part to make him appear. I’d written about his qualities and found myself dating him….though I also realized the qualities I’d written about didn’t quite hit the mark. I talked to friend-girls who were going through the same things I was. We joked and lamented about the way that things were and weren’t showing up. As we talked, I realized that as I matured in my beliefs about the Power of Manifestation, more was required of me. Manifestation also requires action on my part: understanding the “why” behind the “what”, releasing what doesn’t serve, and becoming what I am asking for. It certainly hasn’t been a short or painless process.
I like to think of the Power of Manifestation as a continuum. As I said, when I first started acknowledging my ability to make things appear in my life, I didn’t need to do much more than say what I wanted and watch it show up. As I started paying more attention to how things showed up, I realized that specificity matters. The things I asked for would show up but so would some aspects that I hadn’t considered. I certainly can’t say that there isn’t learning involved when things show up that way, but I can say it requires a conscious effort to be present for the lesson. It can be very frustrating to experience the roadblocks or the lack of immediacy when you are used to things coming in an instant. Something else that becomes frustrating it feels like the joke is always on you because the thing you ask for can show up and it looks NOTHING like what you thought. It turns out to be a learning experience instead of a direct manifestation. For example; a job offer that appears to be better than what you could expect on paper. Starting the job, you realize that the job is a diamond in the rough. The hours are more than you expected, the work is starting from the bottom up, requires working long hours, meetings that take time away from the work itself and bridging HUGE communication gaps. The lumps that I have taken, the conversations I have had, have driven me to understand that the “why” is key.
Looking at the “why” has been life changing. In the past, I thought about what I wanted; the underlying assumption was always been that getting what I wanted would make me happy. This past year has certainly disproven that assumption. Looking at the “why” has also changed the “what” for me. The “whats” that I identify are generally descriptive of the things I need. I asked for a communicative partner, but I did not ask for consistency or transparency. I asked for balance, but didn’t have clarity about what my partner would balance in me. I asked for a man for all seasons, a man who would spend most of his time in spring and summer with me, but I never talked about what the winter or the fall looked like. I asked for a silent strength, but didn’t ask that he speak his truth when I asked for it.
I have since revised my list…and revised how I looked at myself. I am striving to be what I ask for.