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.

 

An ode to those lives lost

I wasn’t sure I was gonna write about Ferguson.  Even as I am typing, I feel like I still won’t.

I have seen the posts on social media, watched some of the news coverage, spoken to family, friends, and police officers. One thing that is common throughout is a sense of hurt, and maybe even a sense of loss. Though many thought the election of a Black President said much about us become a post racial society, the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and John Crawford III tell a different story.

I hurt as a Black Woman. It brings tears to my eyes to think about how these men could have been my father, brother, lover, cousin, uncle, or friend. More than that, I hurt as a human. It pains me to know how one life can have value over another, that people can try to justify a man’s death by the supposed content of his character or his life choices to that point. It pains me to know that some people can allows themselves to feel better about a young life gone too soon because he “might” have engaged in criminal activities. It pains me to know that people can gloss over the death of man by the hands of those who are sworn to “serve and protect” by diverting to discussions about Black on Black violence. It stings to know that social media and mainstream media are angling to make this a Black issue.

It isn’t.  It’s a human rights issue.

There is anger everywhere we turn. Some people are angry at the President for not doing more. Some people are angry at the celebrities who are going down to show face in solidarity. Some people are angry at the ones who aren’t. Some people are angry there isn’t a clear leader in this movement and belittle the efforts of the people who have come from all corners to show their support. Some people are angry at the twitter activism. Some people are angry as hell at the police not being policed, at the police for seeming serving and protecting at their whims and making justifications when they don’t. Some people are angry that their idyllic and bucolic world views have come crashing down. Some people are angry that people are attempting to make justifications that these men had to lose their lives for the greater good. Some people are angry that no one is trying to make any sense of these deaths at all.

All of that anger has a place and a purpose, because it allows us to check in with ourselves. When a death is senseless and sudden, no action or reaction seems quite good enough. None of this anger and no one’s actions are going to replace the life lost. I do take pause with people saying that it offers no consolation to a grieving mother to be told that her son died for a cause. If not for a cause, then what? It can be really easy to shake one’s head at what you term senseless acts of violence and lose the person-hood of the life lost. What I do know is that we are poised to effect amazing change in the policing and even the political system. For all the people pointing at the life of Oscar Grant as an example of how the system fails us -which is not an opinion I share- how many of us are looking at the life of Benji Wilson, whose death was a precursor to legislation that stipulated that a trauma victim be taken to the nearest hospital with a trauma surgeon, despite location. What about Mike Brown’s death, a death that has prompted the Hawthorne, California mayor to mandate that all officers wear cameras? What about the deaths’ of all the civil rights leaders who helped us usher in an era where people could believe that we live in a post racial society.

We forget that anger turns into action. Despite the critiques we might have for the activism of this time, it seems we forget that our social media presence is a valid presence. It is a place where those of us who don’t have the inclination or the means to stand in the trenches can voice our opinions and have our voices heard. Do we forget how often breaking news is covered on twitter before we see it on any other mainstream source? We have an option that was not available to our forefathers, so I am glad to see we utilize every means available to have our messages heard. This availability means we hear consenting, dissenting and all other voices, but it also offers us another opportunity to dialogue if we are willing to use it.

I have had the opportunity to dialogue with an aspiring member of a police department. Even though his reactions initially made me very angry, they also made me very sad. His first response was “well, I can’t believe that he didn’t do anything to make them escalate” though he also said that training for police men covers escalation and de-escalation of force. He also made clear that “I am trying to make sure I make it home at night, so if it comes down to it, I will do what I have to do”. This same gentleman also admitted that he had been a victim of profiling more than once, but also reported being more aggressive with Black Men.  He also suggested we teach our sons and daughters what passive and active resistance.

I hurt for him and others like him who take the oath to protect and serve and learn that this service may not be equal to all man kind, though it should be. I hurt for people who believe so hard in that motto that they can’t believe that people who swear that oath can betray it. I hurt for people who forget that police officers are people first, people with conscious and unconscious biases that they play out in in their personal and professional lives.

 

Situations like theses remind us of the opportunities we have to change. If one person changes their mind about the importance of basic human rights for all despite color or creed, then change has come.

 

A letter to your heart

 I have written this letter many times in my head. I have struck out, re-written, and revised with no real intent to send this to you…until today.

For a long time, I told myself and anyone who asked about it that I was happy for you and  your new love. Maybe it was the Lover’s Holiday, but I realized something this weekend.
I lied.

I know that probably doesn’t seem like the “right” thing to say, but it damn sure is the honest thing.   Trust me, I did feel really petty saying that. It pleases me to know you are happy, but it hurts to know it’s not because of me. I tried to tell myself that I’m too big to play small, but something felt off about that too.

I really started to think about it. I even asked some people about it. Some people told me I could really be happy for you if I was all up, in, and under love myself. Other people told me I could be happy that someone else got something that wasn’t a fit for me.  And then someone said something that blew all that other shit out of the water.

I am going to tell you what that was, but I wanted to tell you something I noticed about all the answers I got: they all included me.  I know that seems kind of silly, and maybe even kind of evident, but hear me out. In both of those other scenarios, I got to chose how I felt about you in relation to me. Even if I have someone, I could still be upset that he isn’t you. Or, I could be so caught up in him that you just seem like somebody that I used to know. In the other, I just really felt like I was dodging a bullet or I was relieved that you weren’t taking up a space that wasn’t designated for you. See, life or love or time or growth made me decide that things happened the way they were supposed to.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that. Alright, so yeah, I absolutely believe that things happen they were they are supposed to, that everything is in Divine Order.  What I don’t believe is that you aren’t it for me.  I have tried to convince myself that this isn’t true harder than you know.  I have prayed, meditated, affirmed, dated, fasted, to say nothing of the old “tried and true” remedy of letting time heal my wounds. Still, I have found my heart beating faster at the sound of your name and caught my breath catching at the sight of your face. I have pushed thoughts of you to the very back of my mind, tried to bury my feelings in the deepest recess of my heart just to find them catching me unawares.

So why am I telling you this? Partially, I hope that me being honest with you and myself will help me hold myself accountable. Maybe something about me burying my feelings for your kept me from really facing  or releasing them, and this confrontation is going to be what helps me get got a place where I can really be happy for you…and I do mean both of you.  But maybe it’s really just that I don’t choose my feelings, and I can’t think of a better way to honor them than acknowledging them and letting them be. I know that you will always have a place in my heart…even if another man ends up taking the biggest piece of it.

Loving you until…

Getting what you came for

If I were ever to write a “how to” guide, I think that this post might come closest to that.  Except I’m not going to tell you what to do. What I will tell you is that you will learn that for and about yourself by doing what “you shouldn’t do”.

The process of elimination can be very illuminating  as it can show us what we do want by helping us to identify what we don’t.   This is pretty straightforward when it comes to clothing, dinner, or drink choices. It becomes a little more involved when we start talking about people.

To illustrate the point, a scenario:

Boy meets Girl and both agree they have chemistry. Boy tells Girl he isn’t ready to be in a relationship, but the two continue to deal with each other. Boy develops strong feelings for girl, but decides he would rather have the freedom to live in the moment than to tie himself down. Girl goes along with this for some time but ultimately decides she would rather be with someone who is comfortable with a title/has solid future plans for the relationship. Boy and Girl part company,  and Boy is hurt about it.

Let’s start with Boy. On the surface this might seem like nothing more than a classic case of someone wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. I would say his life was probably much more difficult than that. If this gentleman was keeping a stable of girls, then he could probably attest to the same. Any man who thinks he can keep more than one woman happy and for any prolonged period of time is nothing less than a study of insanity. To simplify -0r over simplify- all relationships  need attention. If a man is truly cultivating and sustaining relationships with multiple women then he is doing so at no small cost to himself.  Perhaps he has convinced himself he has his composite woman, and that the burden is one worth bearing. Being “the” man to all of these women means disappointing all of them at one time of or another, as all of the woman will be demanding of his time, his attention, his emotional reserve, and perhaps even his physical reserve.

Boy came to a crossroads and was faced with a choice: He could make Girl his girlfriend or he could continue to play the field.  He took a gamble and lost. While some of his hurt could be ego, some of it could be the fact he lost someone he would have rather kept.

Now Girl also had a choice. Girl knew Boy wasn’t ready to be in a relationship, but she took the leap anyway. Maybe it is because she thought that what she had to offer would change her mind. Perhaps it is because she enjoyed the attention and she could have an easy, breezy tryst and move on. She, too, took a gamble. While she might have left because she didn’t “win” him, she also might have left him because she realized her worth.

Another scenario:

Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl get in a relationship. Boy is willing to move heaven and earth to make Girl happy with no thought to the consequences of his actions. Boy finds that he is losing himself in the relationship, he becomes resentful f of that fact, and Boy and Girl break up. Boy goes on to date other girls, but won’t invest 100% of himself in any  of them.

While one could argue that Boy knows what he wants, they could also argue the he won’t let himself have it. Anyone who isn’t willing to invest themselves in a relationship would be hard pressed to say they truly want one. There has to be a “but” involved. It might revolve around fear, it might be because the person hasn’t really gotten over a lost love, it might be because the person isn’t sure who they are or what they want, but since it exists it will stop the person from getting something they claim to desire.

So how is exclusion related to these scenarios? I believe that every experience any person goes through is designed to teach him/her something. Sometimes he/she might not be immediately receptive to the lesson which is why he/she might keep revisiting it. To the point, any time you are in a relationship wherein you don’t get what you need, you learn about what you don’t want. Once you learn to recognize that you can save yourself a lot of heartache and a lot of time. Still, have the discernment to know what you don’t want is just part of the picture. What may be more important is learning how to recognize what you do want and how to make sure you get it.

That part I know I can’t teach. That part you learn through being willing to risk it all to win big.

If you can’t see it with me…let me go

Though some would have you think it is a topic for discussion, I know for sure that there is such a thing as being “too nice of a guy”.

He isn’t too nice because he doesn’t seem to have a backbone, seems like a pushover, or because he doesn’t have swag. He is too nice because he will date you forever when he knows he doesn’t see a future with you.

In the beginning, he is feeling you out. He is asking about your likes and dislikes, spending time, talking to you about everything and nothing. He may or may not be showing you off, but he is showing you a good time. You start to fall for him, and he seems like he is falling for you. Maybe you all decide to do the grown up, and well, that’s really neither here nor there. Before you know it, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months may stretch into years and the relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Subtly -or not so subtly- you ask him what is going on between you. He gives you a non-answer. He changes the subject, tells you he needs time, or gently reminds you that you are his one and only. What he doesn’t say though, is what is really going on.

He isn’t telling you what he really thinks, but he is telling someone. Maybe he is telling the homies.  Maybe he is telling his female confidant. Maybe he is telling the girl who could be the next girl.

The conversation can look something like this:

“I remember when we met. I loved everything about her. She was cute smart, sexy, and confident, and somewhere…IDK. She would jump in front of a bullet for me. She is forreal down for me.  I think i could marry her, but…”

Let’s back up. If you are focusing on the “jump in front of a bullet part” you are missing the point. Where you REALLY should be focusing is on that conjunction.

That “but” means that he doesn’t see it with you.  Maybe he he has no idea what he wants in a woman, one of those ” I will know it when I see it” types.  Maybe he isn’t really ready for the type of commitment you want, for various reasons.  You could say he is leading you on, but I think it is also a woman’s responsibility to see the writing on the wall.

A man who loves you and knows that he wants to be with you will show you that. That woman’s intuition is always on. If you feel like something is off, maybe it is. Maybe he doesn’t have the words to tell you what he needs…or maybe he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth.

The problem with this is that no matter what his reasoning, if it is an issue that ya’ll could potentially work on him being “too nice to tell you” is a communication FAIL. Any issue: sexual incompatibility, his feeling like you aren’t affectionate enough, that you are too affectionate, anything that he feels like is a “shortcoming” is something he can tell you. That isn’t to say that you have to decide to change for him -because trust me, you don’t have to do that- but no issue can be addressed if you aren’t aware that it is an issue.

The time that you are investing in the relationship -one that leads to nowhere- is time that you could be spending in self-reflection, meeting other people, or nurturing friendships that may have fallen to the back-burner. To the point: it is time you can spend doing something other than spinning your wheels.

While it might hurt to find out that the man you thought was your forever didn’t feel the same, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can start to move on.

That is one of the greatest kindness any man can grant you.