Character Strength, Or Character Flaw?

I’ve spent the last 36 hours recuperating from my initial gym workout. At first, I thought I was going to cramp up forever. I’m feeling better, now. I’m not looking forward to doing that gym routine again. So, I guess that means I need to do it more often, so that I recover faster.

I am starting to think about something that happened while I was training. My trainer kept trying to give me physical assists. I would consistently refuse them. In my mind, I kept thinking to myself, “I have to be able to do this when you’re not here. I have to be able to do this by myself.” But, I wonder if it would have been as bad for me during the recovery phase, if I had just taken the help.

Life does some messed up things to you. You develop patterns of thinking, ways of believing and ways of behaving that don’t serve you consistently in the ways that you want them to. Being independent has it’s benefits. But, allowing yourself to accept and receive help when you need it is a strength, too. Not allowing yourself to depend on people isn’t necessarily a strength. It seems like it’s more consistent with favoring your other arm when one gets hurt. You’re protecting old wounds and not strengthening the place that is hurt. You’re learning to live hurt rather than learning to live whole and well.

I can’t say what’s right or wrong, right now. I can only say what I’ve observed. But, get in where you fit in fam.

Kelil

Kelil was a neighbor of mine. When he moved in, he was less than a year old. His parents had moved here to go to college. His father played football for the local university, and his mother … . well, I guess the best thing to say is that she followed his father.

He was born the year my father died, on the day that would have been his birthday. So, it’s easy for me to remember when his birthday is. And, he was a fearless, rambunctious little dickens. That boy would make you tired just watching him run. He was trying his best to play football, like his dad. And, myLORD was that kid fast. I can’t tell you the narrow misses both me and his mama had trying to keep his narrow behind out of the street, once he could walk. But, he would flash a smile, with the cutest dimples, and no matter what was going on, the world was ai’ight.

Everyday that he was allowed to play outside, when he saw me come home from work, he would run as fast as he could to me and we would hug. Can you imagine how great that made coming home? And, he would fight the other little boys (his age) on the block if they tried to love on me, too. Nope. I was his, and he was not sharing. And, you know what? That hit me on all the right places of my ego. But, you know, you still have to be a responsible adult and say that you can love everybody … . I still think that he knew he was my favorite.

Being a smart kid, he decided that I was related to him somehow because I was brown, and he was brown. And, from what he had seen, all the brown people were his some kind of way. He would not be dissuaded. LOL! I was grandma, auntie … He wasn’t old enough to know that brown people get to have cousins that aren’t in the family Bible. And, his parents were fit to be tied by it. So, eventually, he just quit trying to name what relation I was and just said I was “his”.

His father graduated, and his parents moved away. For a while, I got update photos from them. But, they have stopped coming.

I guess God knew I needed something, in that time. And, Kelil was my answer. I needed every ounce of love that was shared between us. I can’t say that Kelil offered much in the way of a life philosophy aside from two things: 1) Go hard, or go home; 2) tell people you love them.  He made his mark.

Happy Birthday, Kelil.

I’m so sad that season is over, it’s unreal. Even if I am happy for the growth of his parents. My little man turned 5 this week. And, man, I miss his hugs. I wonder how fast he is now?

On The Mike Brown Verdict . . . .

Okay, lovelies. This is going to start in a weird place. But, 1) you should be used to it by now, and 2) just stay with me. Hopefully, it will all make sense when I’m done.

When I was an undergraduate, and taking my first class from my mentor, Chico Herbison, he played an audio tape. It was a recording of students in the student union at Kansas State University cheering the news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed. (He didn’t die, jerk. He was killed. Better yet, go stand in the mirror and say, “Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot by a crazed racist”, until you can come to grips with reality.) Chico had been a young man, making decisions about college and where he might like to go. And, he made the recording while on the phone with a friend, who held the phone receiver up in the air, so that he could hear and record the crowd’s reaction.

I think you can imagine the wave of horror and incredulity that swept over our hearts and minds as we listened to this crowd. But, it was important for us to hear that tape. It was important because we had heard the whitewashed, sanitized version of that history: you know, the one where everyone who was alive during the march to Selma was on the bridge. The version that couldn’t possibly be true because if it was, that damn bridge would have collapsed.

A veil had been lifted, for me at least, and an innocence was lost. I started to listen to my family that had been alive during the Civil Rights Era with different ears. And, I started to appreciate those stories very differently than I had before. Because I more fully understood that the narrative of token resistance by a society ripe and ready for change during the Civil Rights Era was a great myth. Not a myth. An outright lie.

So, now, in the face of the virulent, maleficent, unconscionable backlash against peaceful protest in Ferguson, and other cities nationwide, both by the population at large, and the powers and authorities that be, there’s a certain resignation to it. Almost ennui. Sure, I had some hope that things would be different. But, it is the sort of hope that you have when you know the odds are against it, and you’re hoping for a miracle. I mean, Barack Obama is president. Surely, people will stand up for a black kid, killed in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, with his hands up in the air, when a black man is president . . . . Right? People can’t be racists with a black man in the oval office for two terms, can they?

A black man may be president, but I’ve heard the thousands of shades of nigger he’s been called since he was elected in 2008. We all have. I’ve posted some of the images that have circulated on the Internet about him, before. Damn, that post-racial America everyone is talking about must be on backorder, like a mug. Because the America I live in is very much racial, and still very anti-black.

There has been a lot of talk about the protesters burning the American flag. And, I can understand why, in anger and frustration, the protesters would lash out against a machine they feel dehumanizes, degrades and diminishes them. That seems to be a reasonable and rational reaction. However, for me at least, the American flag is still Dr. King’s promissory note. And, I for one, won’t rest until we’re paid, in full.

Weight Loss Journey . . . .

2011, 2013 and now

From left to right: 2011, 2013 and now … all me. And, I lost weight before I put on the dress on the left!!

I’m a little proud of myself, right now.

Why You Need Fancy Lingerie, Even When You’re Single

It’s not the times when you are amped and motivated that you need a pep talk, it’s when you are wiped out, and overtaxed and feel yourself nearing the end of your rope that you need something, or someone, to revitalize you.

Have you ever noticed that when you feel like crap, you don’t feel like keeping yourself up. Your hair goes into a ponytail. You pull out your stretchy pants. Your look advertises, “Hey! I feel like crap! Don’t mess with me. Lead me straight to the Ben & Jerry’s, post haste.” (But, for the record, that peanut brittle flavor does have healing properties. I’m convinced. Keep some of that in your house, along with a bottle of ‘Tussin and a jar of  Vick’s vapor rub. It’ll come in handy, after awhile.)

But, here is where you can utilize your secret weapon . . . . fancy underpants.

That’s right. Fancy underpants. Coordinate your lingerie set to your outfit. Add a garter belt and hose. Rock the plunging balconette. Even if it’s underneath the world’s most conservative business suit. Or, khakis and a polo shirt. It doesn’t have to be for anyone else to see. But, get some underwear that makes you wink at yourself in the mirror and say, “Girl, you got it goin’ on!”

That little bit of feel good may be all you need to get through an otherwise crappy day. Heck, the next thing you know you may upgrade your other clothes. Then, you may start smiling and waving at people . . . . just because. You might stop and play with little kids. You might buy yourself some flowers. And, before you know it, you may find yourself enjoying yourself, in spite of yourself. All because one day you decided to put on some fancy underpants.

Look at you, all happy and stuff. Go ‘head.

Misogynoir, by any other name

If you follow me on other platforms, you will have seen me bandy about the term misogynoir. The term was coined by Moya Bailey, and if you want to read more about it, there is a truly helpful wikipedia article on the topic. But, to put it in my own terms, misogynoir is the articulation of the intersection of both anti-black racism and anti-woman sexism. In other words, one might understand misogynoir as hatred directed at black women.

When one reads about social justice for any length of time, you start to see common threads through that narrative. And, for the black woman engaged in discussions of social justice there is the pressure coming from two groups: white feminists, who prefer to be called mainstream feminists, that want black women to sublimate the conversation of anti-blackness; and, anti-racists that want to sublimate the conversation of misogyny and gender discrimination. But for black women, and other women of color, our lives and livelihood depend on our ability to articulate how race, gender, poverty and systemic inequity affect our day to day ability to survive.  We can’t be quiet about racial injustice, nor can we be quiet about the hegemony of patriarchy. There is simply too much at stake.

But, I want to talk about a particular type of misogynoir, in this piece. But, if you’re tracking with me so far, you understand that I’ve been talking about it for as long as I have had this blog. This type of misogynoir tells black women that they are a worthless commodity, that they undesirable, and that they should compromise their health and their safety in order to secure the good graces of whatever willing male partner they can find that will have them.

It’s based on the scarcity of “good black men”. You know: college educated, haven’t been to jail, good credit score, presently employed, healthy and heterosexual black men that are open to relationships with black women. (And, depending on who you talk to, some of those criteria are negotiable.) We have been told that since these types of black men rare, we should compromise ourselves to get into a relationship with one, and to have one.  I have even seen black community organizers (who shall remain nameless for my purposes here) argue that polygamy would best serve the needs of the black community, arguing that how it was practiced in Africa was beneficial for the women in those types of relationships. (Yeah, unless you’re the wife nobody likes, and you find yourself at the bottom of a well. Or, you have another unfortunate “accident”. Ahem . . . . I digress.)

First and foremost, let me be quite clear, somebody need to get the f*@# out of here with that . . . .

Funny how the fact that polygyny, that is one woman having multiple husbands, is also practiced in Africa, and pre-dates European colonization, is rarely discussed in these conversations, as well.

But, the argument ignores the measurable detriment that these types of arrangements have made within the community already. First and foremost, let me state the obvious: these types of mores are why, globally, black women are at higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. Whether your talking about Accra, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Charleston or Atlanta, these types of attitudes are contributing to the spread of HIV within the black community. It is decidedly not in our best interests, as women, to accept these types of arrangements.

Moreover, it is also a poison to the spirit and the soul.  To tell black women that, because of certain immutable characteristics, they simply have to accept what love is offered to them and make do with it, whether it is the love that they want or not, destroys the self-esteem and self worth of the person settling. Loves, you always have the choice to participate in the loving, regardless of what anyone tells you.

It’s time to call this what it is. It is simply misogynoir, rearing it’s ugly head, again. Don’t believe the hype. Believe in yourself, and believe that it is entirely possible for you to have the love that you want in your life.

Walking, Talking, Miracle

This is going to be a meandering post. Consider yourself warned.

I had a business dinner with my VP, a client and a colleague. My client is a very avid and adamant K-State fan. He was going to enlighten me that Manhattan, KS was a very lovely town . . . . assuming that I have never been there before. I informed him that both my parents and a couple of my siblings were K-State alumnae. That prompted the question, “So, where did you go?” And, I outed myself as a KU alumni.

“Bad parenting,” he said. And, I still don’t know, for certain, if he was kidding or not. The man owns purple shoes. He’s kinda serious about his allegiances, in that department.

But, in that moment, I reflected. I thought of how depressed and unhappy I was as I was making the decision to go to college. As a kid, I felt that my parents just tolerated me being there. That they took me in because my mother died because they loved my mother, not because they loved me. I felt that I was being pushed out of the family that I had come to know because I was 18 and they didn’t “have” to take care of me anymore. How I didn’t want to go to college. How I almost completely failed out of undergrad. How I didn’t even believe in myself.

Then, it hit me: I’m a freakin’ miracle.

The fact that I made it, in spite of everything, is a miracle. The fact that I have a family, is a miracle. The fact that I have not only a Bachelor’s, but a Master’s degree, is a miracle. The fact that I didn’t open a vein, or pop some pills, that I’ve never done drugs, and that I’m getting healthier day by day . . . . it’s all a miracle and a gift.

Now, I truly don’t give a damn about what fanboy has to say about me, or my parents. But, I got to thank him for showing me that I am an unrepeatable, walking, talking, breathing miracle. I ought to be evidence to just about anybody watching carefully that miracles do exist. That God does exist. And, in this moment, I’m very, very grateful. My life may not be perfect, but it is a gift. And, I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to have it. I’m glad that God has brought me this far.

It has not been easy. It’s been one hell of a ride. And, I’ve made it. So, to anyone out there feeling like I did . . . . I’m okay. And, you will be, too. It’s okay. Just take one day at a time.