Adult Friendships Are Tough

Have you ever encountered a celebrity, in real life, without their makeup, expensive couture digs, and entourage? Living in New York City this has happened to me a few times and it always progresses through the same stages:

  1. That person looks familiar. Did I go to school with them?
  2. No, not school. They’re from that thing on TV!
  3. Geez, they look nothing like they do on that thing on TV.

The last part is not said with disappoint or ridicule. They look like regular human beings, as they should. It’s just such a severe departure from the the persona they’ve widely presented and it takes time for me to adjust. I’ve had that happen a lot lately. Not just with celebrities but with people that know personally. Those moments when they reveal something or some part of themselves and I have that moment of “Geez, you look nothing like you did on that thing on TV.”

We all know these people. They live in the extremes. Either they present a facade of perfection when there’s really a collection of absolute hot mess going on in the background OR instead of presenting a farce they go completely Men In Black and you never hear or see from them until things are relatively stable again. “Who me? I’ve been gone for 7 years? Strange.” In either situation, I always wonder…what’s the big deal with the mess?

What is there to hide, really? Is it shame? Is it a desire to not appear weak? Is it jealousy? Depression? I struggle with this aspect of friendship because for the most part I’m a really open person. When things aren’t good I’m totally comfortable with saying that London bridge is falling the heck down. When they’re awesome I love to share it and celebrate the peaks in life. But I struggle to maintain relationships with those who don’t do the same.

Listen, I know there are some nuisances to this. I was raised in the “Don’t put your business out in the street” era so I totally understand keeping your cards close to your chest. But I think this has been taken out of context and a bit too far. What I believe is important is that we don’t allow our lives to become shows that people tune into daily for entertainment. You shouldn’t create an audience to misery. Audiences are not helpful. Spectators rarely step in to stop the show. Voyeurs will move on without pause, whether you lose or win, once the curtains close. This is something we all want to avoid. However, you don’t avoid it by shutting the whole theater down.

I’ve watched people abandon their closest friendships. Smile and laugh in public and then drown the pain later in private. Shut out their dearest family members because of pride. Or shame. Recluse by choice because admitting hurt is more painful than the living of it. What brand of brokenness is this? Where we claim to have such closeness, intimacy, and connection with others but become distinctly disconnected when we need support the most?

No, you should not be sharing with the audience. But how about sharing with the orchestra? The people who are down in the front, working right along with you, adding to the soundtrack of your life. They would be instrumental in changing the tune of your situation, boosting your mood, or at the very least keeping the audience distracted while you do a quick wardrobe change and get back right.

I’m personally fed up with seeing relationships that can bear awesome fruit, wither and die because we can not communicate during those tough times in life. It’s a filter that I’ve learn to remove as I get older.

Smile when it’s true.

Ask for help when it’s due.

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“Your problem is, you think you shouldn’t have any.”

“Why is this happening to ME?” This is my favorite line when things go awry. I make an ugly cry face with it too. I wad up a piece of tissue and dab and snot and dab and snot until that thing is heavy enough to pitch at a Yankees game. What did I do to deserve this? What karmic boomerang did I throw out into the universe and when? I’m not a bad person so this should not be happening. I don’t understand how the scales of life can seem so unbalanced. So random. So. Un. Fair.

via giphy.com

I love self help books. Videos. Documentaries. Stories. Just because I always feel there is a way I can be doing life better. So, I watched Tony Robbins’ documentary “I Am Not Your Guru” on Netflix. I’d never consumed anything from Tony Robbins before. Not from lack of interest, but I had only come to know of him from one of my favorite movies “Shallow Hal” starring Jack Black. In the movie Robbins hypnotized self-absorbed Hal into seeing women for their inner beauty instead of their physical appearance. If you have not seen it, check it out.

Anyway, I watch this documentary and while most of it was what I expected, a little gem hit me.  I got a nugget out of it that kind of stop me in my tracks to be honest. At one point in the documentary he says…you ready?… “ Your problem is, you think you shouldn’t have any.” Pause. Break. Stop the Parade. You said what now?

I have this really beautiful fairy gumdrop view of good and bad. And in this world of fairies and stardust, a hard and fast rule exists– If I don’t do bad things and make poor decisions, bad things and poor circumstances will not visit my doorstep. Simple and true right? No– complicated and wrong. Very wrong. I am saved, but I am not exempt.

If bad things only happened to bad people, evil and wrongness wouldn’t be so damn lucrative. I know absolutely awful people [read: beautiful children of God] who have great things happen to them consistently. It’s unfair. But for the longest time, I’ve been thinking that it’s unfair TO ME. Once T-Rob broke down the break down I realized–it is very unfair. Unfair TO THEM. Lord knows, the person I am today was not the me, she, her of 10 years ago. I’ve grown. I’ve learned. I’ve humbled. Not by choice. But because I was forced to by my problems.  

I deserve my problems

To not have them would be a theft of my soul

To not be trapped in them

and be released from them

would be to never have left the womb

To be exempt from pain would be a death i’m not prepared for

My brain needs them. My heart needs them.

My breath needs to know that it’s made to labor at times

That the ease of expulsion is not guaranteed

Carefree is not a birthright

It’s not a goal to reach

Growth happens in between the broken

When my heart breaks, wisdom crawls into its cracks

Filling the spaces

Mending

It’s bigger. It’s better. It’s more.me.

Problems.

Hello.

No, I won’t throw a parade for the problems but I will acknowledge the purpose they serve in my salvation.

Featured image from hasim751.com

I’m a Down-Low Natural

I’ve been living a double life when it comes to my hair. In early July I cut my hair off. All of it. After almost three decades of relaxing my hair into submission it was damaged, broken, uneven, and unsure of what its natural state was. My natural coils sprang from my roots only to be immediately gelled down, filled with chemicals and changed into something else. I told myself over the years that I was doing it because straighter hair was more manageable. It was easier to deal with. This is partially true. But the overwhelming truth was. I don’t know my own hair and i’m not sure I like it.

Few people actually know I cut my hair and this is because I’ve been sporting wigs. That’s right- I cut my hair off in an attempt to save my natural hair and embrace its coils, just to put a wig on. I believed that I was doing it just to get used to my short hair. Or I was wearing the wig until my hair  gets a little longer. Or I was wearing the wig until I can have a consultation with a professional natural hair guru. Or I was wearing a wig until…The excuses really went on and on. But underlying all the excuses the truth hurt. I was uncomfortable. With my own hair.

As I write this I’m trying to be as blunt as possible and not hide behind poetic prose and metaphors. I think my natural hair looks unprofessional. Unkempt. Shocking. It’s so painful for me to say. I’ve gone on long diatribes about self acceptance. I’ve gone on about doing what’s best for your unique self. I rage against conformity. And yet I believe one of the biggest lies that have been told to my ancestors. I believe I won’t be taken seriously as an educated, professional, strong black woman.  That no matter what I achieve I’ll still be a “nappy-headed” girl from pre-gentrified Brooklyn underneath it all. This short natural hair exposes me in ways I never thought hair could. It brings out the little girl in me who yanked on her pigtails wishing they’d be longer. It brings out the teenager in me standing in the hair shop trying to figure out which hair would make me look best. Because I knew it’d never be my own.

And yet here I am. Being pulled along by my beautiful black sisters that I see out every day. Sporting their crowns. Curls reaching out in every way. Different lengths and textures. They’re saying that it is enough. That it is ok. That “nappy” is not allowed.

I have a little one-and-a-half year old girl who’s hair I love. I love braiding it. Putting it in pigtails. Putting bows around her baby ‘fro and leaving it free. Trying different moisturizers to see which best brings out the features of her beautiful curls. My love of her hair is a direct correlation to how much I love her. Point blank. I love everything about that girl. So I love everything that comes along with her. That same complete and full love I have for her I don’t have with myself just yet.

This is my lesson. My realization. Athena. The girl who took Women’s Studies courses in College. Who wrote the papers on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. I played Rosa Parks in my school play. I know the story and the issues all too well. Yet, oppression sneak attacked me. I was participating in a centuries long system of oppression while at the same time being all things feminist, liberal, equal rights and self love. As the chirrens would say, “I was low-key oppressed!”.

How many un-challenged social constructs are really affecting my seemingly elevated and inclusive world? What about you? What haven’t you challenged? Check it out. You may find that you are low-key oppressed.

Thou Coins Art Loosed: Debt free or Bust

I’ve been kind of obsessed with Money lately. Not so much acquiring it but more so financial freedom. Managing what I have better. I looked at my credit card recently and thought “What the hell did I buy?” Mostly pastries and coffee according the transactions but I digress. I’m done with that. I want to DO better. So, tonight, I googled “Keys to Financial Freedom” and my web browser crashed. Bad omen.

There’s been a lot of talk, mainly since the financial crisis of 2007-2008 about the concentration of wealth among a small sector of the population. Along with my fellow Americans, I went through the stages of grief as I watched the news day after day and took note of all the bailouts (also known as the government giving away our money to business who fail because they’re shitty) and I got angry. And as my anger tends to do, it started with an overflow of complete irrationality that eventually resolved itself to something adjacent to reality.

I’d love to think that my last name will become Zuckerberg, I’ll have a closet full of Fruit of the Loom tees and bring the gift of the interwebs to little African children but that most likely will not happen.

I often talk about going “off the grid” but I know that I like my Chock Full O’ Nuts and HGTV too much to ever really go further than Prospect Park.

I’m pretty average. So i’ll likely do average things, that earn average money, which needs to be managed in an above average prudent sort of way.

Prudence? Did someone call my Dad?

Yes, the most frugal people I know are my dear old Dad and my dear old Dad-in-law. So my Husband and I went to them first.

Scene: Picture me. Sensible shoes. Maternity shirt, although thou art not pregnant. Sitting perched at the edge of my seat. Waiting with baited breath for the secret. Maybe an undetected yet intricate ponzi scheme. Maybe a drug hustle on the side. Maybe they invested in the market of stocks. Perhaps they trademarked the Apple name back in the 70’s and wala!

Scene: Dad stops watching TV for a second. “Stop spending so much. Pay off your debt. Don’t get anymore debt. Save your money.”

Jesus wept.

Patience? Follow through? Sacrifice? This big bad evil thing called money that’d i’d been fighting since I got my first tiny check from my cashier job at 16 years old. The nemesis that forced my acquaintance with Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac in College. The foe that made me have cancel MTV documenting my daughter’s first birthday on “My Sweet 16”. It’s not really the enemy at all…instead it’s me.

It’s not lost on me how shockingly Christian that advice was. Money is simply an extension of the people who control it. Money is not evil. Money has been used to do significant things (see: interwebs and African children). Alternately, it has also been used to place politicians and entire political parties into the pockets of a few who have a vested interest in self preservation instead of global conservation. Bottom Line: If a few of us (read: all of us)  get smart about what (and who) we give our few dollars we can shift the economy. Whether it feels that way presently or not, it’s the honest truth.

As a millenial, we are inundated with information about whats new, whats hot, whats needed and who has it. It’s everywhere. Decades ago you didn’t  know your cousin who’s 5 years younger than you got married and purchased a home until a carrier pigeon brought a note to the family home during supper. But today it’s instant, in your face, and the crappy feeling of failure is instant. We compete with one another and society as whole. When we compete we borrow. We spend more than we have. The cycle is vicious my friends.

Cash rules everything around me and it’s important to me that my average money go to extraordinary things. By saving–by allocating my money where it counts, I maintain control. Therefore, I’ve embarked on a bare necessities challenge for myself and my family. It loosely means that I will only purchase what I need, when I need it for the next year. My husband is not aware of this but I’m 3 days in and so far I’ve done my own manicure and pedicure and I’m figuring out how to tackle my own natural hair via Youtube Videos. I may look like Celie told Harpo to beat me for the next year but it will get better. But in the long run I, and my children, and generations will be better off for it. And you can’t take that away from me. Makidada.

 

His name is Alton.

I wonder what his name is. The next one. The silent one. Who can’t tell his story.

The one whose blood is on the pavement. Who’s always a threat. Because of his size. His height. His hoodie. His questions. His youth. Where he lives. Where he doesn’t belong. His blackness.

The one who has no breath in his lungs because of their feelings. Their fear. Their past. What they don’t understand. Where they live. Where they don’t belong.

Pick my men up off the pavement. Pull them from under the white sheet. Dig them up from the ground. Cut them down from trees. Put them back on the playground. Put them back in the stairwells. Put them back at the grocery store. Let them make it home.

I wonder what his name will be. He who at this moment is next to his mother. His wife. His children. His life. Will his name be the one I gave him at birth? The name I took at the alter? The name I took at birth? Did we share the same womb?

Right now his name is Alton. Next week, who knows?

*Graphic Video* https://youtu.be/pdGXhSQvTKc

A Single Mom is not a Father

A single mom is not a Dad. 

We can stop the, “Happy Father’s Day to me because I’m doing it on my own.”
A single mom is a Mother who is handling the responsibility meant for two people, by herself. This is noble, this deserves respect, and should be celebrated…on Mother’s Day. 

A Father is a man who contributed not only half of his DNA but half of his heart to a child. A Father is a man who fell in love with a woman and chose to love her the little ones who came from her as well.  A Father is a man who signed papers, went through numerous court appearances, and paid money to become the father of a child whose parents decided they couldn’t. A Father is a man who noticed that young man or woman who needed him. 

He had to introduce himself, remain consistent, and invest in raising a little girl to know what a mans love should feel like and a little boy to know what a man should be. 

It’s a daily walk of being a picture of strength throughout your day and being a soft spot for the family when you get home.  Being a Father is hard but I’ll be damned if I haven’t seen more guys grabbing this title proudly and excelling in it. 

A single Mom is not a Father. She’s a warrior of a woman who deserves recognition on her day. Let’s leave Father’s Day for the Dads. 

I’m Angry. Delightfully so.

Angry
I’m angry. Am I’m delighted. I’ve been chasing anger for miles but it’s always a little faster than me. Always a little farther out. Farther than my resolve.

 It was less than a year ago I pulled my co-worker into an empty office. Confused. But she was my confidant because she’d been in this confused placed before. I told her that I thought my husband may be interested in another woman. May be cheating on me. She gave me the “Oh honey. I’m sorry” eyes and quickly corrected her. That’s not why I’m coming to you. For sympathy. No. I’m coming to you because when the thought of him with another woman raced across my mind…I felt nothing. I was not hurt. Mad. I was not. Angry. What does that mean? Shouldn’t I be? “No.” She said. “When you’ve been hurt a lot it’s sometimes difficult to feel strong emotions again.”

 It was a little over a year ago that I stepped on a scale. Curious more than anything. I’d had a baby and my pre-baby clothes were cutting off my air supply but still I wanted confirmation. Exactly how fat was I? The scaled ticked and waivered before it stopped. Forty pounds more than when I peed on a stick for the first time. My eyebrows raised. And then lowered. I stepped off, slid the scale back under my bed and went and ate. No disappointment. No hurt. No anger.

 It’s been almost two years since I’d written a single creative word. I’d deleted the blog app on my phone. I’d never make a living as a writer. No one would read my ideas. I couldn’t waste time on this…leisure. Useless is what writing is. A waste. Indifferent. Not angry.

 “Hey, I missed you at church this Sunday.” She was being polite. She’d missed me at church every Sunday for the past few months. I could barely pull myself out of bed to get to Jesus. I figured he’d come to me if he really wanted me right? I didn’t have the energy to smile. To pretend to pray when I was thinking about my empty bank account. My husband, possibly not loving me. My frequent courts visits to fight for a child I’d raised and loved since he was in my womb. The executives who looked at me across a conference room table and I could hear them thinking “You’re not good enough.” My apartment in the ‘hood. Where a group of guys smoking. Drinking. Playing loud music greeted me and my babies every time I came home from a long day’s work. I don’t want to pass them. I shouldn’t have to pass them. To get home. The home I pay for. But I have to. I have no choice.

 I part the cloud of smoke. Hold my breath as I step on the rank elevator. I push the smooth silver button. 9 levels of humid rank heat. My hands shake as I open my door and before I know it my keys are flying. Down the dark hallway. Ricocheting against the cement walls. My chest heaves. I can’t breathe but it’s way too much air. I’m hot even though it’s cool. And I know what it is. Anger. I caught it. I caught up. It’s here and it’s everything. All-encompassing and surrounding me and I miss it and hate it and want it to stay and wish it would go away. I’m so delighted. Delighted in anger.

 The last time I was angry I lost fifty pounds. The last time I was angry I finished four semesters in college as a single mom while holding a full time job. The last time I was angry I packed up all my ex’s shit and gently delivered it to his grandmother’s house for safe keeping. The last time I was angry… I wrote. A lot. The words poured out and I would re-read them and marvel at how beautiful they were. The last time I was angry I met the love of my life because I wouldn’t settle for anything else. And I know he loves me. But I was angry that I didn’t, once again, love me. See, when I’m angry, I’m changed. My anger isn’t all raw emotion with no destination. It’s a pusher. A dynamo. A life-changer.

 So, I’m angry now. And. I’m delighted.