Advertisements

When I was in cosmetology school, there were some topics that we were told not to talk about and religion was one.  Though that was more than twenty years ago, I still believe this to be true.

I often tell people that I am not religious when they begin talking to me about whatever they believe is real.  I am not rude about it, but as a rule of thumb, I just want people in general to know because people tend to gravitate toward me and I think they should know what they are getting themselves into.  I consider myself spiritual.  Yes, I was raised Southern Christian Baptist, but over the last two decades,  I just sort of veered toward something less complicated.  For all intents and purposes, let’s just say, that by textbook definition, given the rigidity of the laws of what a Christian should be, I am a Heathen.

Because I teach students who are entering and exiting puberty, and because I teach literature, sometimes the subject of God is unavoidable.  When it arises, I try as much as possible to answer questions with all the knowledge that I have and Google the rest.  I have no problem with saying ‘I don’t know,’ and seeking out another source.  But I also like that I will listen to their beliefs and their theories about religion without judgment.

Over the last couple of years, I have struggled with the students that I currently have.  My school consists of ninety-nine percent African-American, primarily Christian, Democratic-believing, conservative view having a group of students who are also very matter of fact.  This causes a lot of problems when it comes to teaching them.  Which brings me to one student in particular.  Last year, I had my students read Things Fall Apart one because it is an excellent novel, and two because there are enough copies for everyone thanks to an old grant.  One student who has stayed on my radar for several reasons said that she would be unable to read the book after I instructed them to take it home and tell their parents what it was about.  Now in sixteen years of teaching, no student has ever stated that they couldn’t read a book before.  And this really shocked me because we had already read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison that year and it is on the banned book list.  I gave her a copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsoliver and after she sent a picture of the cover to her mother and pastor, she said that it was ok.

In order to understand where this is going, I have to provide some context about this student.  I have known her since her freshman year and have said, since the beginning, that she has struggled with depresssion.  I have expressed this sentiment to her mother, the counselor, her, and the therapist.  All, to some degree, have agreed.  Because I struggled with this disease myself for a long time, I knew the signs and I also knew that in the time where suicide was being seen as more of an option for our students thanks to social media, that I should check on her as much as I could.  Recently, she came to my door and told me that I was right.  When she said this, I got up, walked over to her and tried to get this now 18 years old to seek counseling which she refused.  Because I had followed all of the proper channels, I had to let it go and continue with my check-ins during the school day.

For Christmas, this student got me a gift.  This is not common for me.  I am used to my sister who is a grammar school teacher getting all of the gifts so I was ecstatic.  That was until I saw the note inside telling me that I was wrong about her, that she was stressed because the school was stressful and that she was “very happy” and that I should come to her church to see for myself.

Of course, I’m not going because I do not feel as if I should have to attend her church in order to prove anything to her.  I have long since passed that stage; nor do I believe that she fully understands what she is saying and how it goes against what she is doing.

 

Choose Yourself

Every day for the last couple of months, I have gotten out of bed to do my meditation, write, and as of yesterday, to throw some exercise into the mix.  This is as a result of being on Xanax for almost a year along with other meds.

A couple of years ago, I woke up to a panic attack followed by another one and then another one.  They increased to the point where I felt at some points that my heart would stop beating.  I went to work-high off meds-and on the weekends, I would self medicate or use other soothing techniques to try and make myself feel better.  And some days I would cry.  It was bad.

I began a series of things to help me feel better such as therapy sessions (psychiatrist and psychologist) and slowly I started to figure out what the problem was.  Of course, it led me back to traumatic events in my life that I had not dealt with because on some levels, I didn’t know how or it was just too painful.  In addition to that, I always had that fear that I would end up in a psych ward like many of my immediate family had.  I knew that I had to change.

Being medicated constantly wasn’t easy for me because I knew what road that could lead to; meds often lead to more meds.  Your mind will, as Marisa Peer put it this morning, always go to what is pleasurable.  I knew that if I did not change my thinking and my habits soon that I would kill myself because I would not live a mundane life; and to live my best life, I would have to take care of my mental and physical health.  Five thousand out-of-pocket dollars later, I feel as if I am a new person.  I have not had any meds in almost a year, I feel great, and even when I don’t feel my best, I now have systems to put me on the journey to be my most fabulous self again.  How did I do it?  I listened to the same self-help books over and over, I listened to motivational speakers, paid for programs on meditation and more programs in-between those programs, and I began exercising again.  Oh yeah, and I say ‘no’ a lot more frequently.

Saying no is kinda the reason for this post this morning.  My adorable husband began complaining about the amount of time that we spend together since I have made all of these changes in comparison to what we used to spend together.  And let me clear the air by saying I love my husband and yes, he may be right.  But this is about me.

For those of you who will say I’m selfish, thank you, I am.  It has taken me a long time to become this way.  For YEARS, I spent most of my time being devoted to other people’s cause.  Now, to their defense, I now see this an act of distraction even back then.  It wasn’t about me needing to do something for them, it was more about me not facing what was wrong with me and being busy doing, as my friend Olga puts it, nebulous things.  These acts gave me just enough of a workout to be too tired to do the things that mattered as it pertained to self-care.  For that, I suffered for many years.  No more.

I love my marriage, my family, my job, but honey, loving me is the most important job that I have.  I watch my husband, and so many others make decisions that have nothing to do with me every single day.  And now,  know and understand that that may be a part of his/their journey. What I do know is that self-preservation is the first law of nature and that I have an obligation to myself.  So in that same vein, I do what I can take on at the moment AND it cannot conflict with what I need to keep me mentally healthy.  I do this at the risk of knowing that some may walk away from me, say that I am too arrogant or self-centered. To that I reply, I will miss you, but may your journey be as enlightening as mine.  Because I know that those people who cannot understand my choices and my journey have not decided what theirs is.

Forward. Onward. Upward.

Fail On Your Own Terms

When I was about seventeen years old, an adult cousin of mine asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  At the time, cosmetology was my first love, and I told her that I wanted to be a cosmetologist.  She said with such conviction, “Oh Fredia, please.  You should try something serious.”  During that time, I was such a vulnerable little person.  I had run away from home just under a year ago at that time to live with my aunt, and with every emotion running wild in my body and idea after years of mental and physical abuse, her advice became my truth.  That, along with so many other cumulative incidents such as that one sent me on a long road of self-doubt.

Not so long after that, I became pregnant and then decided shortly after that I would let go of my decision to become a cosmetologist.  I failed the cosmetology test and then decided to go to school for education.  I did continue to do hair as a means of creating income but the excitement and the drive were gone.  I would become a teacher like so many other women in my family and would have insurance, benefits, and a steady income for my family.  Throughout my undergrad journey, I changed my major several times.  Eventually, I would finish.

If I were a betting woman, I would say that after that conversation with my cousin, a little piece of me died.  I went through life for many years second guessing myself and never giving myself permission to trust me completely.  I had created for myself a personal hell in my own mind and one thought of self-doubt would yield days of contemplating and so I struggled.  More than 20 years later, I am finally free of most of the mind chatter.

I listen to several podcasts a day, and one day, in particular, I was listening to a show called 7 Good Minutes.  He spoke in great detail about how he never gave his children any sound advice.  He would respond to any question that they had with “figure it out,” or “what do you think?”  I loved it and wished that I could have gone back to when I first began having children and reared them that way or been given that advice myself.  I don’t have to read up on this man’s children to know that they have probably failed greatly and successfully. We have to give our children permission to fail over and over again.

Giving children permission to fail means that they come more self-reliant and in my case, higher self-esteem. That is more important than any degree.  African Americans (those I know) make a habit of telling their kids what to do instead of guiding them and giving them the proper tools to move forward.  When we tell someone what to do day in and day out, it cripples them, and as an educator, I can see it.  I see it in their writing when they come up after only having written two sentences, asking me what I think.  It disturbs me every time.  This kind of thing happens a lot more when I ask them to write an opinion piece.  It is as if they do not ascertain the basic knowledge to verbalize who they are or how they feel.  It is the biggest difference I see between most students in a high performing school and students within low-performing schools.  It is my inclination that if it isn’t caught early on, these people will grow up having to be told what to do at work, at home, at life in general.

Recently, I signed up for several classes totaling almost $5000 from my own pocket.  I told my sister who was very supportive but very few people beyond that.  The decision to be less vocal about my choice to take a $2000 yoga class, a $1000 meditation course, a $1000 fitness course and so on were decisions that I made acting on things that I have wanted to do for a very long time.  Not telling anyone had very little to do with what they would say or how they would react than knowing who I wanted to become and what I wanted my life journey to look like.  I do not need permission to do anything-pierce my nose, dye my hair, take a break from any duty that I no longer feel suits me-the list goes on and on. I didn’t tell anyone because every move does not have to be neither shared nor explained.  I was/am doing it, final answer.

I do not know what would have become of me had I pursued a career in cosmetology.  Maybe I would have been a multi-million dollar stylist to the stars, or maybe I would have still decided to become an educator.  Maybe education was my destiny-or maybe I (we) create my (our) own destiny.  I lean more toward the latter.

What I have learned through many years of detoxing negative thoughts and behaviors is that you must fail on your own terms.  I still struggle with the idea of bracing for impact as one motivational speaker put it, but I know that bad things in life will happen.  And if it must happen, it should happen on my terms.  That is the only way to live.

forward. onward. upward.

On Depression and Anxiety

Maybe.

Maybe people commit suicide because there is an ongoing symphony inside of their head that they cannot silence.  This symphony includes songs from Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Solange’s Cranes in the Sky, I Aint Mad Atcha by Tupac, Take A Bow by Madonna, This is Me from the movie “The Greatest Showman” and Run DMC’s Walk this Way at the same time.  Maybe.

Maybe mornings became harder as that person got up.  Social media can test your ability to be satisfied with who you are, even on a good day.  You lose 10 pounds and here comes someone else who has lost 20 pounds and gotten a book deal.  Maybe.

Maybe that person is watching a loved one live through a trauma.  (Nothing brings you back to reality quicker than seeing the mortality of someone your own age).  Maybe.

And what if…

What if that person tried to go and get medicine, like so many novices on the subject, suggest, and each time, the side effects are just too much.  There is always the risk that the depression medication might, in fact, make you more depressed.  Maybe the side effects leave you drained every day, or maybe they make you gain weight, feel sleepy all the time, make you feel like a zombie,  take away your sex drive, alter your ability to be effective at your job, give you mood swings, has been known to cause organ failure…

and those are just the ones they tell you about.  The nightmares that you can’t turn off haunt you sometimes even during the day.

How do you tell your family that you are suffering?  You are successful, you have a spouse, a beautiful family, and to them, that should be enough, and you really want it to be enough, but nothing ever is.  You take another medicine, but this one just makes you feel like wiping out your family is the only possible solution.  They might see you frowning, and chop it up to exhaustion.  Maybe you try to tell them, and they tell you that you should just pray or go to church.  Maybe.

Maybe you want to tell your significant other that the sex outside, in the parking lot, the hospital bathroom, the beach, the mall, all night at your job and oooh baby, you want me to put it where-sex that you guys had so frequently, in the beginning, was a manic state, and then the sex withdrawal is the depressed state.  But would that be a betrayal for your spouse when you kinda felt like something has been wrong since forever?

Maybe you had a baby because you thought that all you needed was love and that everything else would be fine, but the baby triggered another hormonal imbalance that many said was just post-partum (if you are white, because Black women couldn’t possibly suffer from this.) And now, in addition to feeling as if you are a failure as a person, you are also a failure as a parent.

Maybe you have suffered some kind of PTSD or maybe it is hereditary.  It does matter how you got it, but it is ultimately the same disease. Maybe, maybe.

Why Do We Tolerate The Things We Do?

As you know by now, I am an educator in an urban school system. With this comes the idea that certain things are just common.  For years I adopted this attitude.  When kids cursed or acted crazy, I simply charged it to the game.  That is to say, I just said, ‘oh, these kids are just under a lot of pressure and that is why they respond the way they do.’  And so sometimes I would yell and scream back because if stress was the cause then yelling was the effect and then all was ok until it wasn’t.

During the last year, I have taken considerable measures to change my mode of thinking. I have taken a course on Transcendental Meditation, I have signed up for a class for educators called Breathe for Change (B4C) and I listen to several podcasts daily and self-help gurus about changing one’s mindset.   I meditate twice a day and I just signed up for a personal trainer.  I treat myself great.  And I have had to go through several measures to teach me how to treat myself…

So why would I allow anyone else to treat me differently?

Yesterday, I became a part of three things that prodded the writing of this particular essay.

  1. A student cussed so violently and repeatedly that she disturbed the entire floor.
  2. I walked into a meeting and the person who was in charge was so rude, that I along with another staff member had to turn around and leave.
  3. I was the middleman for a very disturbing conversation between a mother and son and afterward, the mother, who seemed very unbothered, proceeded with her day.  This was not the first or the second time that this has occurred.

Cliches often become so because within them lies truth no matter how minute.  People will treat you the way that you allow them to.  I have witnessed this on so many occasions.  The worst bullies, placed against someone who is firm about who they are, cowers because he/she knows that here, they will be up against a fight. Students can be totally disruptive in one teacher’s classroom, but walk into another teachers’ class and simply put their head down.

But here is another question, (non-rhetorical), how did anyone come to believe that they should have to deal with this kind of behavior?

For me, it began when I was very young.  I moved to Mississippi at the age of 5.  It was then where I was first told that kids should be seen and not heard.  I had never been in a situation where I had been told not to speak at all,  maybe not as much. I was the girl, after all, who told a class visitor that my aunt took me to the liquor store every single day because she did.  (The liquor store also doubled as a candy store and my aunt who was also my pre-school and kindergarten teacher would take me there every day for snacks.)  But never had my aunt or anyone else, including my mother, pre-Mississippi, had ever told me not to talk at all.  My great-grandma, Callie, I am told, once asked me to leave her room because I spoke too much, but silence me?  Never.

Every day in Mississippi, I was reminded of this over and over again.  Women remained silent and men did all of the talking and children just had no place speaking.  And while it did prompt me to become a writer, those words had to be hidden because if my dad found them, out came the belt. Now, in this day of social media rants that sometimes encourages bad behavior, reality tv, and fearless leaders who say what they want when they want, we have become a society of the givers and receivers.  It makes for very bad form for all involved.

How did I learn to regain my voice after ten years of living as a mute?  Very slowly.  It would take me decades to learn the ability to use my voice again.  And when I finally did speak out, sometimes it would just be things of no importance in hindsight.  It was raw and unfiltered. So things had to be un and relearned all over again.  Many times, the voiceless become random ranters.  And without people around to serve as a barometer for what is healthy or unhealthy, we create our own societal hells.

Walking out of that meeting today was (maybe) insubordinate, but necessary for who I am and continue to become.  I think back to people who sit and tolerate it and feel as if it is nothing big, but later, will scream at a barista for forgetting the shot of espresso. Everything matters. Everything is cumulative.

We have to come back to some form of civility.  (Did we ever have one, though?)  Where I understand that it is not my right to treat you with disrespect but it is not my place to accept yours either.

Forward.  Upward.  Onward.

Happy New Year to Me! 43 To You Earthlings

I don’t know what I can say about how great this year has been for me!  I managed to pay off my truck and purchase my dream home and I am just ecstatic about it all…

Each year on my birthday, I almost feel as if it is a new year for me, as I believe that all people should.  Yes, every day is a chance to change your world, but the new year, for me, is a time to think about what I want to do with myself and reflect on the lessons that I have learned.

  1.  My health is my wealth.  I don’t care what is going on in my life, I know that if I can make it out of bed, I can change anything, even if it is just my mindset and things will get better.  Oh yeah, and do some damn cardio.
  2. The mind creates the reality.  This has been the hardest (and I am still struggling with this) lesson for me to learn.  We are often times motivated by the people around us who have, without trying most times, created how we feel.  Over time, those thoughts become a reality.  I have learned to turn off the voices of the nay-sayers and just do my own thug-thizzle.  It has served me well.
  3. Sometimes things just don’t make sense, but you move forward anyway.  It has been almost 7 years since Hoston passed and over a year since my sister-cousin Juliet has passed.  My daughter still struggles daily with the idea that her dad is no longer here, and I have to watch as she tries to make sense of it all.  I have also had to watch helplessly as my family has tried to make sense of Juliet’s death but to no avail.  How the universe selects who goes when is still not clear to me.  Some folks are gone and it’s like, damn, why them?  And then a person who has done so much evil is still here.  We don’t always get to understand why; our job is to move on and honor the dead by living fully and completely.
  4. Hard work pays off but have fun as well.  I have worked so many hours this year that sometimes it felt as if I lived at my job but it has not been in vain.  Without those hours, I would not have realized so many of my dreams and I am grateful for that.  But I will say that I do not have fun as much as I would like.  I’m putting it in the universe that this will be the year of more (balanced) fun. For me, this will mean more time with close family, more traveling, more dinners, more time in my woman-cave or my clubhouse as I like to call it.  So work + fun=balance.
  5. Listen to yourself.  My intuition is my greatest asset.  I make decisions that affect me greatly based on how I feel and I am almost always right.  Don’t let other people talk you out of what you feel to be right.  I’m not talking about the person who hates everyone, I’m talking about the feeling you get when you meet someone or you listen to them and the change your energy.  Energy is a real thing and I wish more people would believe and study it.
  6. Everything is love.  Do all things in love.  If you do not love it, then it will not serve you properly.  Pray in love, eat in love, walk and speak in love…at least as much as you can.  You cannot be positive 100% of the time, but be love more than enough to rock the boat.  After all, LOVE is the foundation of all religions, but I’m sure you knew that already.
  7. What do I need?  I had two Reiki sessions this year (I’m looking forward to more)  I burn sage on Sundays to drive out the bad vibes that may have entered my home, I bathe in lavender and tea tree drops and I also put it in my oil to help keep my scalp healthy.  I drink a tea which consists of honey, green tea, a cinnamon stick, lemon, and cayenne pepper every day to jump-start my system.  I also sit in silence and the dark most of the time to recharge and most recently, began getting up at 4 am to listen to multiple motivational pieces and I sometimes just need to phone a friend. I took a Transcendental Meditation class and I signed up this summer for a certified yoga instructor class. When people question my choices or call me crazy, I smile at them.  Yes, I am wonderfully crazy and I embrace it all.  It will always boil down to me.  Self-preservation, after all, is the first rule of nature.
  8. Get a set of pom-poms.  I used to think that people who spoke greatly of themselves were self-absorbed assholes.  (And maybe they are)  but I also know that no one is going to cheer for you like you will cheer for yourself!  I have friends who tell me how wonderful I am, but not my husband, kids, family, friends…no one can do this 24/7.  So you have to learn to cheer for yourself!  You can do it!  I have a cousin who writes herself post-its and places them on her mirror.  Though many question her thought process, her spirit is unbreakable as well as her belief systems.  We could all use a dose of that.  One of my co-workers-after being playfully hassled about his birthday-decided to bring in his own cake the next day and food, and cards (which he asked us to sign) and a camera.  It was brilliant! Cheer for yourself!  Be your own party and don’t make that anyone else’s job.
  9. Go where you are celebrated…my friend sent me this reminder this morning.  This will be one of my post-its on my mirror.  Sometimes we will take shit from someone who does not want to be with us because we love them.  I don’t care who you are, if your vibes are good, I’m going.  Love is an action verb, remember that.
  10. If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.  Change things up, open yourself up.  If I feel like something is not working for me, it’s a wrap.  And I will ponder over it as much as I need to.  I know now that we have to learn that the universe will force us to change whether we want to or not, even after death.  Might as well be a willing part of the process.
  11. ASK.  BELIEVE.  RECEIVE.  (WORK) I was raised to believe that God answers prayers, but somewhere along the way, I lost faith.  I am no longer a practicing Christian, but you don’t have to be to understand the powers of the universe.  This year I began my very intense spiritual journey.  It all started when a co-worker mentioned a book that I’d had on my shelf for years called The Secret.  I read it and began to think about what I had been putting out there.  Life had given me such hard blows that I had become a cynic.  I believed that good things only happened to certain people because (unconsciously) I believed that they were better than I was and so the Universe gave me all of those things back.  This year, positive energy!  Self-worth, self-love, and then I collect that ish!
  12. You can begin again.  I love to see people in their 80’s or later (70 is NOT OLD) getting up and putting on makeup and doing things that folk say they shouldn’t be doing.  My aunt is almost 80 and still getting sew-ins, still shopping, still taking trips, still trying to be a student.  I have another aunt who is volunteered up until her late 80’s at a hospital.  I am so inspired by these women and other women whom I see on the internet bench-pressing, looking younger than me and still dancing!  Yes!  Now imagine how their lives would have been if they had just said, ‘oh, I’m whatever age, now I must get ready to die!’  No.  Age is a state of mind.  I just told my sister that I will accept the age of 43 for you Earthlings, but I really feel the same way I did in my teens.  You can get married again at 90, and you can start a new career at 60.  I believe that.
  13. Love what you do!  I write because I like to read it and I teach because I love it.  It’s that simple.  I know that I am fortunate enough to have a job that I love and that affords me the life that I have.  I also know that I will always be teaching in some capacity but the bottom line is, I make sure that I’m loving my work and I spend a lot of time doing other hobbies when I can.  That centers me and I feel that it is a part of my growth.
  14. Say Thank you!  We can get so accustomed to things that we forget to acknowledge that we owe someone gratitude.  Thank you is a wonderful and cost effective way of showing love and appreciation.  I have tried to instill this in my students and my birth children.  I tell all of them that your mother gave you the biggest gift that she could by birthing you.  Everything else requires a “thank you.”  I say it to everyone no matter how small the deed whether it is a custodian, a student, a sibling, ANYONE AND EVERYONE! And I also add a “sir” or a “ma’am” behind it.  It makes me feel good to know that they know that I appreciate them.

 

#43toyouEarthlings                 #namaste

 

 

Sorry or Sorry, Not Sorry?

In this week’s edition of the “What the Hell,” we have Mr. Tyrese Gibson and Gilbert Arenas.  (I actually had to google Mr. Arenas to see who he was).

I was minding my own business surfing through Instagram when I ran across  Mr. Arenas’ comments about dark skinned women and how many of them weren’t beautiful. He even went so far as to call out my girl, Lupita. And it wasn’t as if he was prodded, I mean dude just jumped on the ass end of someone’s post and would not let up.

And then, there is Tyrese, who is no stranger to derogatory comments about women who sleep with men too quickly instead of waiting years (I didn’t know there was a specific amount of wait time), and how they are the ones who actually end up with the good men in the end.  Like who, you, Tyrese?  Because good is relative.

To address the simply ironies, both of these men are poster children for stereotypes.  Tyrese was made famous for singing or as some might call it, ‘shuckin’ and jivin’ ’cause his drank was so tasty and for those too young to remember the reference to his commercial, he is most noted not even for the role he played in Baby Boy as the thieving, lying, baby making whore named Jody…and most recently, his car stealing in Fast and whatever number we are on…but I digress.

I’m maturing.  I know this because years ago, hell, even months ago, I would have been seething at these comments, but now, they just make me chuckle.  See, I get it now.  Me ranting about how much these men make me sick and talking about what some might see as “mother issues” is now beneath me.  Mr. Arenas and Mr. Gibson, you two don’t like dark-skinned women (yes, Tyrese, I remember the comment you made years ago about not doing black girls “a favor” by casting them in your videos). And Mr. Gibson, now we ladies need to worry about not being labeled sluts if we want to get a good man.  Noted.

I can respect your (possible) mother issues, your rejection as young men by dark-skinned women, the girl on the block who fucked everyone BUT you, your issues with your own skin color, or just the general ignorance you bear as it relates to your own race.  But do us all a favor and stop apologizing.  You see, these apologies for me feel like someone drew their fist back, and punched me right in the face only to come back a day later with a few ice cubes in a towel saying sorry.  Mr. Tyrese Gibson has set us up for his whack assed apology by telling us that “one was coming” and that he was basically prodded by his therapist whereas Mr. Arenas is still strolling through the malls basically mocking those people who know who he is AND read what he said.

I think I am like most people in the United States who does not like #45.  What I can respect about him, however, is his ability to have the balls to say what he means and not take it back.  If the three of these guys were my only options for marriage, I would definitely choose #45.  Why you ask?  Because at least with him, I would know that there would be very few surprises.  He is what my old boss would have called “a straight shooter.”

But since we are clearing the deck, being born light-skinned is not a talent, just like being born dark-skinned is not a curse. And if a woman wants to fill her vagina with a bunch of different penises, that’s her business and it does not make her a slut just as marrying a light-skinned woman who chose to hold out does not make her a good girl nor does it make you lighter.