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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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.

Unconditional Love….

I have been letting these words roll around in my head…and I’m finally ready to let them go.

In recent days, I have had a chance to stare love right in the face, and make a decision.  I am not an over or under lover. I love unconditionally.

For the first time, I understand that. For the first time, I know that everyone else does not have that same understanding.

This is a lesson that I learned over time, one cemented from me in a moment where I could have had all rights to cry, curse, complain, and disavow  a love that I have nurtured. In past times, I have loved despite distance, misunderstandings, lack of communication, and feeling hurt. That love was not a gentle love. I said things I could have said better, or things I shouldn’t have said at all as reaction to being hurt in the moment. I didn’t say things for fear of looking weak, or stupid. I walled up my defenses for fear of being seen as gullible and because lashing out let me strike the last blow or get the last hurt. I mastered appearing nonchalant and being nonplussed in the moment. I know now that those situations had divine purpose.

Recently, I have had conversations with the people I love about love. Conversations that helped me recognize the defenses I had mounted and conversations that made me realize that I no longer saw love as a battle or a prize to be won. I now see love as a way of being . Unconditional love doesn’t threaten to leave when things get tough, it recognizes mounted defenses and breaks past them to get to the root of the matter. Unconditional love recognizes when a fear of vulnerability, a fear of being found wanting, a fear of being seen as imperfect inspires deflection for fear of being seen in the naked light of the truth and being judged. Being able to love unconditionally allows for recognition of conditional love.

Conditional love is learned. When children feel that their parents love them for their accomplishments, they learn to love conditionally. When parents guilt try to make their children fit in a mold of who they want them to be, children who strive to fit the mold and hide and forsake parts of themselves learn to love conditionally. When children feel that one child is valued over the rest of their siblings for academic or athletic prowess, they learn to love conditionally. In a child’s understanding, they are the center of the world. Though children are inherently wise and innocent that child’s action -or inaction- can create new wisdom that makes that innate wisdom a lie. A child whose parents messily  divorce may strive to keep peace by being a model child, at which point being a model child can become viewed as the condition of their parents’ love, especially if doing so helps to maintain the peace. A child whose parents turn a childhood pastime into a means through which a child will repay the parents’ sacrifice, the child’s excellence in that pastime can becomes viewed as a condition of love. That view can become reinforced if the parents shift their attention to a child -and that can be a sibling, a cousin, or a stranger- whose star is on the rise when that child disappoints by losing interest or becoming injured. Parents who do not clarify that these interests and behaviors are a mere bonus to the love that the they have for the child simply because they were born to them set the stage to creating adults who only love conditionally.

Conditional Lovers are shocked to the core when they meet unconditional lovers, especially after a lifetime of feeling they they are loved conditionally. In adulthood, we meet them as men who cannot commit to women without feeling like they can financially provide for them. We meet them as men who would play on the fringes of love and
love women with their bodies instead of with their hearts. We meet them as women who do understand love as physical or emotional abuse. We meet them as women who would take pretty baubles over emotional support. Both fear and misunderstanding prevent them from being vulnerable and allowing a partner to see their true selves, because the first love they had ever known may not have been open to or allowed them to see that the true self is worth knowing, cultivating, and loving.

The beautiful thing is that no man, woman, or child is sentenced to love conditionally for a lifetime. Any one who has the courage to develop, explore, or share their most secret self can be gifted with and gift others with unconditional love.

The journey to unconditional love is not an easy one, but it is certainly one worth taking.

 

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.