Soul Journies

american-passport-57e932175f9b586c356bbea2As the mother of two adult children, I am continually discovering their individuality with wonder, amazement and pride. I am sharing their lives with them and very few things on this earth make me happier than that. I realize that not all adult children include, or even want, their parents in their lives. Parenting adults does not come without its challenges – It is a fine line between concern and meddling. Like most parents, I have raised my daughters with all the resources, information, knowledge, wisdom and love that I had, and no doubt, I made mistakes along the way. The good news: both of my daughters grew into incredibly kind, compassionate, loving human beings, despite the growing pains.

JANELLE’S JOURNEY

My oldest daughter has been a traveling Registered Nurse for just over 10 years now. She has committed her life to caring for others under conditions and circumstances that would give me nightmares. My internal anxiety filled-dialogue has mellowed over the years as Janelle has become a seasoned nurse. I occasionally still worry about all the germs and other hazards that she’s exposed to in her profession. However, I always have to remind myself that she’s smart and uses good common sense and has learned a lot in her 10 years. So now, I mostly focus on all the good that I know she’s doing as a nurse and how blessed families are that she is taking care of their loved one. In the decade since her nursing graduation, I have watched my oldest child grow into a woman of uncompromising moral character, intelligence and an ever evolving self-confidence that is unshakable. In keeping with her adventurous spirit and desire to travel for work and pleasure, she has just booked her first solo vacation to the Dominican Republic. Now, this is not her first out-of-country vacation. On the contrary, her passport has several stamps. However, this is her first vacation…alone.

Over the years, she has vacationed internationally with friends, her sister and even with me. But there have been times when she’s wanted to go away again and, for many reasons, no one was able to go with her. She would postpone the trips or cancel altogether. But what I began to see was an evolving soul emerging in her – one that would no longer wait on others to accompany her in seeing the world. She talked about doing it and finally she booked her first trip as a solo traveler. Now, of course, me being a mother, my first thoughts were of her safety! Yes, I want her to continue her growth and be the independent young woman that she is, but we all know that this is a crazy world and not often a kind one to women.

I listened while she talked about traveling alone and began to feel better when she assured me that women were doing it by themselves all the time. Admittedly, I felt even better when I began to research out of curiosity and found this to be true. My desire has never been to put my fear into my children’s lives – I want them to live out loud and fully – but I want them to be aware and cautious and, most of all, safe. Yes, I was worried a bit – it’s a foreign country, and she’s a beautiful woman traveling alone. However, I’ve chosen to change my perspective of this new adventure of hers. Instead of being afraid for her, I’m feeling very excited! I can imagine how completely therapeutic, empowering and amazing traveling alone would be. Going on your own terms and being completely confident and independent with her decisions and choices. And isn’t that what I’ve always wanted for my children? Absolutely! So, do I have her ENTIRE travel itinerary with phone numbers highlighted on my phone and computer? Damn right I do! I’m mom, so I get to be a little anal about this – no apologies! But the joy, pride and admiration that I feel for her courageous decision far outweighs any fears at all. Janelle, you inspire me and I hope this is the first of many wonderful adventures in your life. You have one of the toughest jobs on the planet and you certainly earn every vacation you take. ENJOY and HAVE FUN, my love!!

MEL’S JOURNEYblack-woman-getting-massage

My younger daughter is a Flight Attendant. Yep, she travels for a living as well! Mel attended college with the plan of becoming a teacher. Wow, what a tremendous decision to devote herself to educating our youth! I was so proud of her, but I won’t lie: I often prayed that she’d work in a private school or one of the better public school districts and not get assigned to a rough area. C’mon, we all hear about the things teachers have to put up with nowadays: classroom violence  (and let’s not forget that some idiots suggest that teachers pack pistols), disrespectful kids AND their parents! Low pay, bureaucratic red tape, and all-around thanklessness for a vocation that requires tremendous commitment, patience, and a love for teaching in order for it to be done successfully. I have none of these things and applaud those who do.

Fast forward a few years and my baby girl has now been sharing her brilliant smile and congenial personality with air travelers domestically and internationally. I’m not exactly sure when she made the decision to become a flight attendant (FA for short so I don’t have to keep writing it all out), but I was thrilled and excited about her decision!

Once again, I looked at my adult child and realized that she has a mind of her own along with a fearless spirit. Her sister and I encouraged her and proudly and loudly showed up and cheered for her at graduation as we watched her get her wings. She was ready to fly the sometimes “unfriendly” skies and see the world. As always, the mother in me thinks about safety first. And, once again, I found myself not wanting to project my crazy fears upon Mel’s life. So, l did and continue to do what I’ve always done when it comes to my children: I pray for their safety and leave them in God’s capable hands. When it comes to adult children, many times that all we can do. They are no longer children who we can protect and lock away. I raised them both to go out into this world and live their lives on their terms.

Almost two years in and Mel is an amazing FA! She flies everywhere and loves her job! Recently, while visiting me here in Atlanta, she met up with some friends and hung out with them for the weekend. When she returned, naturally I asked how her weekend went and what she and her friends had done. Mel told me that they had decided to go to a Korean spa here in Atlanta (one that I’d never even heard of). The spa wasn’t just any spa- it was a “sauna for well-being”. I asked what that meant and she told me – oh boy did she ever! It’s called the Jeju Sauna and it’s open 24 hours. They serve Korean food, body massages, body shampoos, hip baths, vaginal steaming and…wait, what did she say? Vaginal steaming? What the hell is that, I asked?

Jeju Sauna, Mel explained, is a spa with gender segregated rooms. These rooms have hot tubs, showers and hot saunas. She said that she and her friends were completely naked with their belongings safely locked away in provided lockers. They were surrounded by other naked women (and girls) who enjoyed everything from hot tubs, to steam rooms, swimming pool, mineral rooms and even sleeping quarters with wide-screen televisions. Yes, you can stay overnight! She then explained that the vaginal steam spa entailed her sitting on a sterilized stool – naked – while her vagina was exposed to a soothing heated stream of warm steam that is supposed to rejuvenate and cleanse the coochie.

I listened to her in stunned silence and my mouth opened. I was still processing the fact that she’d actually gone to a sauna, stripped naked and walked comfortably around friends AND strangers. This from a shapely, curvy young woman who often felt insecure in her bathing suit when we went to Jamaica. Now, here she was casually telling me that she was butt booty naked among strangers! After I processed it, I laughed out loud and began to ask more questions. I was thrilled that she had been so brave and challenged herself to move outside of her comfort zone. I quizzed her on what others were like. She assured me that every size, shape, nationality was there and how amazingly clean and sanitary everything was. And most of all, she said she the experience was transforming, holistic and exhilarating. Once again, another daughter stepping outside what she’d always done to do something new and different. **Sidenote – I told her if she ever refuses to take off her towel or cover up at the pool/beach again, I’d snatch it off myself and push her in the water!**  Bravo, Mel, my baby love!!

Comfort Zone Quotes - A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nNow the truth is, I may OR may not ever visit that sauna. I may OR may not ever travel alone to a foreign country. I don’t know. I have learned, however, to NEVER, EVER say NEVER (I’ve eaten a LOT of Nevers). But what I CAN say is this: My daughters absolutely ROCK!! They are bold, adventurous, fearless, empowered, bodacious badasses who are living and experiencing life authentically, un-apologetically and on their own terms – no limits! And as I write this loving tribute to them, I am smiling and feeling so joyful inside because I get a close-up, front-row seat view of their lives and I am grateful that they continue to inspire me to live my very best life in whatever way that is right for me – right here and right now.  Thank you, my daughters!

 

Remembering My Aunt Ollie

aunt Ollie2My aunt Ollie passed away on October 22, 2017 in New York. She was my father’s sister and, who I considered, a bridge to my mysterious paternal history. Her brother, my biological father, is not the man who raised me – my wonderful and loving step dad, Richard, was and he was the only father I ever knew since I was in kindergarten. But my biological father, Rudolph, is who I shared my DNA with. He hadn’t been a part of my life since I was a very little girl. However, I do have a clear memory of two of his sisters in my life. Aunt Ollie was one and her sister, Aunt Margaret was the other. I don’t remember spending a great deal of time with either of them, but I do remember their beautiful smiling faces and the hazy kindred connection I felt in their presence. I was young, so I didn’t understand it all then. I simply knew that these two women were a part of that rarely spoken subject – my father. But they had remained in my mother’s life, thereby, in mine and I was always glad about that.

Sadly my aunt Margaret died years ago, but aunt Ollie was still here. As the years passed and I grew up and eventually moved out of New York, I didn’t see or talk to her often. I wish I had. I became busy with children and husbands – divorces and …life. But throughout the years, whenever I spoke to my mother, I would always ask her about aunt Ollie. I remember in 1981 when my sister Audrey died, in the fog of disbelief and sadness – on the day of Audrey’s funeral, I watched as my aunt sat quietly in a straight back chair in my mother’s living room. She sat alone dressed in black and her hands gently wringing a white handkerchief around in her lap with beautifully polished red nails. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t crying. She had a look of sadness on her face, but it wasn’t an unfamiliar place for her – she knew firsthand what loss felt like. There were some things that stood out that cold January day, but honestly, much of it is a blur. But that image of my aunt sitting in that chair, waiting for the cars to come and pick us up to take us to the service, is etched in my memory. Her presence was comforting. She was there once again in August 2013 when my last sister, Allison, died. This time I snapped a picture of her sitting on the couch in my mother’s house (pictured above) It was the last time I would see her.

A few years ago – long after my own children had grown up- I began that old conversation with myself that I’d periodically had in my life when I looked at myself in the mirror: I wonder what my biological father looked like? You see, I’d never seen a picture of him. It was a sensitive and discouraged subject to approach with my mother – she simply never wanted to discuss him, let alone share a picture of him. Instead, when I ventured into the danger zone once and asked what he looked like, she told me, “He looks like Grover Washington.” End of subject. Now if you know anything about Jazz, you know who Grover was. It’s no coincidence that I’m a big lover of jazz, so for years, whenever I listened to Grover play his sax, I would look at his picture and say, “Hey, I hear you look like my father.” I never felt angry or deprived about the lack of information. My stepfather was a good man and he raised and loved my sister Audrey and I like we came from his loins. I was simply intermittently curious about my biological father. One day, I finally called Aunt Ollie and we talked. I sent her pictures of me and my girls all grown up because she hadn’t seen them in many years. I asked her if she had a picture of my father that she could send me…and she did. Like many aunts in our families, they are often the giver of forgotten familial gifts and this was that for me. It was a picture of him in his army uniform surrounded by friends all holding drinks in their hands. I think my aunt said he’d came home on leave and they were celebrating. It was the first time in my life that I’d actually seen a picture of him and not a “surrogate” substitute. And guess what? My mother was right..he did resemble Grover Washington a lot. He was very handsome.20150908_234614

I have been forever grateful to my aunt Ollie for making that connection possible for me. He had died years before I received the picture from her so I knew there was no chance to connect with him, but that didn’t matter. It was my aunt who gave me the missing piece of my DNA puzzle – the mystery was no longer there – the forbidden topic was no longer taboo. Aunt Ollie was the bridge that allowed me to at least see the other person who had been there at my conception, if for nothing else.

I’d spoken with my aunt several times by phone since I last saw her. However, I hadn’t spoken to her in quite a while before she died. I didn’t get to say good-bye, but I never do. I don’t know how I’d say good-bye anyway, so I’ll trust God that in His wisdom, it works out for the best. Aunt Ollie was petite, beautiful, classy, and stylish and I could always hear the warmth and kindness in her voice whenever we spoke. I loved her and I will miss her. Thank you, Aunt Ollie – sleep well.

To my cousins Craig and Sharron: Thank you for sharing her with me. Love and peace to you both.

 

 

LEAVING THE ASHES BEHIND

phonenixMy rebirth has required my death – The death of my soul and my spirit. My transformation has commanded my mortal being to reshape and renew itself on more than one occasion in my life. This time is no different. My life has consisted of a series of hard knocks and “what the hell’s.” And with each knock down or hell storm, I have been reset to begin again…to begin a new.

I’m like most humans – finding comfort in my discomfort because at least it is familiar and native. Co-existing with pain has become common place and routine. Allowing our recognizable habitat to embrace and stroke us permits complacency and stagnation to become routine and accepted. It is a place where we settle for the chaos and confusion. There is no room in that place for our wings to emerge.

I have recently escaped the sluggish and passive existence of the tried and true…the routine and familiar. However, I do not regret that experience at all because my already solid wings were strengthened and fortified there. I discovered the layer that needed to be summoned, awakened and nurtured. I am the Phoenix and my ashes are left behind.

I am now embarking upon a new and exhilarating journey that requires tenacity, confidence, boldness and some “badass-ness” and also some divine support from the Most High God and His compliant and mysterious universe. I am fearless and joyful as I move into the fire and allow it to burn the old and create the new. I am awaiting the manifestations of long-held dreams that have formed and become finely tuned.

What an incredible sojourn the past few years have been for me. Not because it was easy or happy. No, just the opposite. Everything has changed. The inner voices are clear and precise. My former spirit has died and I’m not just restored, but reborn. Direction and guidance are ever-present and I chose to follow, not just hear. I trust the winds of change and welcome their unfamiliar promises. With the exception of the death of both of my sisters, there has never been a time in my life that change was regrettable or afflictive.

Moving out of our comfortable and cozy place is daunting. But living an authentic andchange3 truthful existence requires the death of fear and complacency. It demands the courageous and, often times, uneasy metamorphosis into a place of unexplored territory…a road less traveled. It is there, without a doubt, that you will find the core of who you were born to be and the gift that is yours alone. In that unexplored terrain is where the wing-building will serve you well. The wing-building architected from the challenges, the disappointments, the injustices, the heartache, the pain that sat with you day and night, the smiles that never transitioned to your eyes because your heart was sad. Well it’s a new day and you’ve passed the test and your rewards are big, bright colorful wings, beautiful and strong and promise is in the air.

You’re ready to fly now.

 

Artist credit (The Phoenix woman): Karol Bak

 

Black Does Crack

19905255_480710992280250_7441731849441199542_nWe’ve bought into the lie. The one that tells us that “Black don’t crack.” Oh yeah, I know what’s meant by that – it’s meant as a quasi compliment that we … us…black folks manage to retain our youthful, unwrinkled, line-free skin well past middle age and into our senior years. “Black don’t crack” has long been the unified mantra of our black women to each other when we see a woman who is older than she looks: “Girl, you look so good. Black don’t crack!” We’ve even taken it further as we often declare, “Lord, I thank you that I don’t look like everything that I’ve been through!” Yet another statement shouting our victorious “win” over visibly aging and looking worn, weather-beaten or tired due to stress, worry, anxiety, grief, or numerous other situations.

Yes, we black folk are certainly a resilient bunch. Did I mention how we are also the most forgiving and accepting human beings on the planet? No? You don’t think so? Consider this shit: Who else but us will get on television, or anyplace else, and tell the person who has just maimed us or murdered our loved one whose body isn’t even cold yet that “I forgive you…just turn yourself in.” When do we get a chance to process the devastation, the loss? The burden of forgiveness before we’ve had a chance to sit with our loss and grief and profound sorrow is a detriment and insult to our being. Who but us accepting and embracing black folks readily take everyone into our “fold” and families and love and accept them regardless…  We have forgiven much. But maybe not forgiven and embraced ourselves as merely flesh and blood mortals with no super powers. We’re simply human beings.

We sing praises to God and turn our burdens over to Him. During times of strife and trouble, we declare that “God’s got it!” We tell our friends and family who suffer from depression or mental illness that these “demons can be prayed away.” We tell ourselves and others: I have to pray harder. I can’t afford to have a mental breakdown. Those horrible things happened to me, but I’m turning them over to God. Fix it Jesus! Oh honey, you don’t need to see a psychiatrist, just pray about it.

Ours is a culture deeply rooted in the black southern churches of our ancestors. They connected with an idea of a God who would deliver and protect us from all evil – physical and mental. There was no need to consult anyone else about the things that troubled you…tell it God and all is well. I do not dispute that, for many of us, prayer and a personal relationship with our Creator is essential in our daily lives. Of course, not everyone feels this way and I respect that. I am a believer in the prevailing presence of the Most High God. I simply HAVE to believe in something bigger than me and the things of this world.

I also believe that BLACK DOES CRACK. Black folks may have a built-in anti-aging blessing called melanin, which gives the skin elasticity and longevity against the outer elements. HOWEVER, there is NO melanin on the inside – where the soul and emotions reside. There is no extra protective coating around our hearts and minds. Inside, we are all equal. Inside we crack like everyone else. The difference is: culturally we do not own these type of cracks. We see them as weaknesses or a lack of diligent prayerfulness. “Pray without ceasing,” as Paul commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Does that mean that when things get tough and we are discouraged, confused, traumatized, depressed or mentally ill, that we are to simply pray about it? Are we to simply pray about sexual or physical abuse as well?

I believe that prayer works. I also believe that mental health counseling and/or medications work wonders, as well. I believe that together, prayer/meditation and seeking professional help is a necessity to our survival. Traditionally, black folks have not readily accepted or participated in the “counselor and the couch” mentality. “Don’t be telling people our business!” they’d say. Or, “You just got to stay prayerful and ask God to cast that demon out of you!” Why is it not okay for us to falter, to be mentally or emotionally vulnerable and seek professional help? Isn’t seeking help a sign of strength and not weakness?

We continue to cover the cracks on the inside with the smooth, unwrinkled and unlined surfaces on the outside and we continue to smile through our madness while the silent inward screams become louder. And then one day it really does “crack” and Uncle Roy or Granny Mavis are sitting in a back room in the house or on a porch in a rocking chair with vacant eyes, hollow souls and remnants of who they were are all that remain.We feed their bodies, but their minds continue to deteriorate and despite the prayers, they remain lost and void. Or we walk into a bathroom and find that our husband or wife or sister or brother have opened their wrist with a razor or put a hot piece of steel through their own head.

There is no shame in mental illness. Black men and women suffer from Bipolar,  psychotic disorders,  post traumatic stress, sexual and gender disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, anxiety,  and many other mental health illnesses.  We are no less likely to be affected by these disorders than any other race. However, we are less likely to seek help for them because of a lack of knowledge, resources or shame. Get the help that you need for yourself or for a loved one. Talk about the things that consistently sabotage your joy or the things that haunt you and steal your peace. There are trained, non-judgmental professionals who can help. Seeking their help is not an affront to God, but an act of kindness and love for you or your love ones.

Black does crack – from the inside out…

“You are not the reflection of those who can’t love you. Find comfort in knowing you have only loss those who did not deserve to stay.”                           -/www.facebook.com/TheBlackDivineFeminineReawakened

Artist Credit: Lionel Smit

The Love Letter

beautiful lady

Beloved,

A resting bitch face? – so they say. Maybe.

But it doesn’t matter anyway.

Their opinion of you is irrelevant.

You don’t owe them your smile. It’s reserved for whom and when you choose.

Just because he may speak to you and you may even speak back,

Doesn’t mean he gets to inhale your time and invade your space

You don’t owe them your words or your minutes.

He calls you beautiful or pretty or baby or honey

He doesn’t know you. You’re the prize. You’re the jewel.

You don’t owe him your beauty or your sweet scent

You are a black woman

Unapologetically honey and golden hibiscus

An ancestral infringement upon your melanin.

But that does not matter.

You do not owe them an excuse or an explanation.

You are more than enough

You are black enough.

You are who you are meant to be.

a warrior spirit

resilient

Introverted.

You will not say you’re sorry if you are not.

You will not tell him that you love him if you don’t.

If they don’t speak their grievances to you, then it doesn’t count,

nor does it matter.

tell the story as you see it.

You are discovering your own truths, so they cannot

Disarm you with theirs. You do not scare easily.

There is no need to compete and never compare.

You are sufficiently seductive and satisfied in your own temple,

Where both your spirit and body dwell.

You’re not impressed by their big shiny things

You are more interested in the places in their souls

That are dark and hidden, cracked and unloved.

But they cannot have your soul without showing you

theirs – laid bare, raw and naked.

You want the real and You need the righteous .

Your soul soars with the universal vibrations of

Wellness and harmony.  Your profound gratitude

to the Most High God

Is endless, but your understanding is not.

You’re seeking.

You are not lackluster leftover carnage

You are deliciously divine and dazzling

You are not here solely for his pleasure or his penis

Your vagina is not submissive to his whims, entertainment or

Amusement. It is not a hole to be filled. Instead, it is a

Garden of goodness with guava and nectar . The sun and the moon.

the entry to life.

If you choose him, then the stars will belong to you both.

You do not owe yourself to him.

But should you choose to share your

Sparkle and splendidness with him,

You are the dream come true for the dreamer.

He cannot steal your joy if he leaves because

You are comfortable in solitude and that is

Where you first discovered your SELF and your worth.  SELF love

And SELF care were waiting there for you, too.

You were already in love before you met him.

But should you decide to invite him to get

Acquainted with your aura and your essence, he will love you.

Neither a queen nor a diva. You are not a woman for the meek or mild.

You are simply a woman who will release her flowers and sweetness

Upon the deserving but Who will not waste her time or his if he’s not.

You do not owe him a glance or a second thought.

Circle cautiously.

Awake and audacious – you never

Need to be “handled,” only understood – or not.

Either way, You are more than enough.

Lovingly,

Me.

Artist Credit: Maratamara

http://maratamara.deviantart.com

 

 

Middle Age: What Happened to Our Men?

fat men2Recently, my close friend Wendy and I had a conversation. She brought something to my attention that really matters. She shared with me that during a social event that she was at, she noticed the number of middle aged (40’s, 50’s and up) who were in attendance were, predominately Black men, who were very out of shape and walked as though they were tired and/or stooped over. She told me that she didn’t see even one who  she found even remotely physically attractive. I can definitely relate to that because, although we live in different cities, I see this on regular basis right here in Atlanta.

Wendy reminded me about the on-going and prevailing movement in this country to get black women to eat better, get healthy and exercise. I agreed with her. How many Weight Watcher commercials have we recently seen where Oprah Winfrey is boasting about her 40 pound weight loss. I can’t even count how many Facebook pages suggest I “like” them; they’re usually in the spirit of “Black women exercising” or “Black Women Getting Healthy” or something to do with promoting the health and wellness of black women.  This is a wonderful thing, no doubt!

However, much to Wendy’s point, how often do we see websites, Facebook pages and links or even commercials where fat black men are the targeted audience? Where’s the campaign or movement for them?  I really had to think about this when Wendy brought it to my attention. So, what does this mean? Are we as a black community less concerned about the health of our aging men than we are about our aging women? Why isn’t there as much emphasis on fat black men? Is this a double standard thing or what?

There have always been two sets of rules for men and women in our culture and the black community is no different. A man can put on weight, grow a gut the size of a beach ball, lose his hair or let his grey grow in AND never lose his desire for sex. And, of course, with the invention of the little blue pill, an aging penis is still able to get the job done.  Truth is, I have been approached by beach ball bellies and the thing that I noticed, besides their girth, is their confidence! Many of these men, who are clearly obese and out of shape, still feel as though they have a chance. Are we culturally more accepting of overweight men than we are of overweight women? I think we are and that’s unfortunate.

During our conversation, Wendy reminded me about a few dismal statistics. She said,

Overall, women outlive men, we often end up taking care of our partners/lovers, many in long term relationships only begin to live our lives after partners have passed on and our men suffer/die from HBP, and among other issues, heart and prostate disease, many while being “comfortably overweight and out of shape.”

Once again, I agree.  We’re not saying that overweight/out of shape black women don’t suffer from many health issues also. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death in black (and white) women in the U.S.  Heart disease used to be considered a man’s disease, but not anymore! Maybe with this revelation of heart disease now being a woman’s issue, too, hence this tenacious emphasis on women’s health and wellness. I say hooray! Let’s keep our bodies as healthy as possible – let’s learn that a cup of anything is usually enough. Let’s continue to encourage our fellow sisters to exercise daily – either alone or with others – take a walk or a Zumba class…it doesn’t matter, just move. But, what about our men?  Collectively, what are we doing to share the focus and get overweight aging black men up and moving? Being overweight sucks your energy level and that has a negative impact on your social and romantic life. This applies to men and women. But for some reason, I think we middle aged women are “getting it” faster than our partners because we’re the ones coordinating walks, runs, fitness classes, working out at home and in the gym. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that this applies to ALL middle aged black men – it doesn’t.  But truthfully, for far too many, it does apply.

Look, let’s keep it real here. Men love attractive, shapely, fit/semi fit/at-least-attempting no-treadmill1to be fit women…even if they’re not! There’s nothing better than a sexy, vibrant, energetic mature woman who takes charge of her health and wellness.  We, women, want the same things in our men! We also want vibrant and energetic fit/semi-fit/at-least-attempting to be fit men in our lives.

Being middle aged doesn’t have to be synonymous with being fat, out of shape, overweight, unproductive, boring, tired, empathetic or unengaged in life. I have written several pieces on living our best lives at this age. The possibilities are endless and exciting. However, in addition to the wonderful things to look forward to, we have to be vigilant about our aging bodies and taking care of them. This is the time in our lives – men and women- when we start becoming the “other people” who we read about who died suddenly or unexpectedly. We are those “other” people. Although there are some things that are out of our control, we must try to do better with the things that are.

Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts on this topic. I’d love to hear from you!

 

To Wendy (My friend and still the hardest working sista I know): Thanks for the conversation and for giving me a great topic to write about. It needs to be said.

Photo credit: Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

 

A Glass of Wine and Random Thoughts

merlot2The other night I was in a very reflective mood. I began to think about a few things that randomly popped into my head as I sipped on a wonderful glass of Merlot. It seems like the more Merlot I sipped, the more reflective I became. Yes! I decided that material for my next blog piece was taking form. I was inspired, and a little bit buzzed, but that’s irrelevant. The point is, I had some random stuff that I wanted to share with whoever wants to read this. If that’s you, then keep reading and feel free to leave your own random thoughts in the comments section…with or without wine.

On Attitude: 

Someone recently very vaguely hinted to me that I needed to “improve my people skills.”  Oh, yeah, he hinted at it but never directly said it to me. I’m not surprised at this. However, I was surprised at how funny I found this innuendo to be. My internal laughter lasted for hours afterwards and I was filled with amusement the whole day.

I’m just no good at “hints, innuendoes, beating around the bush or sugar-coating” shit. This sometimes means that when other people “hint” at stuff, I don’t get it right away. I guess I expect people to be as direct as I am. Direct I get – no offense taken. Hints, I’m like, what the hell are you TRYING to say? Spit it out already! I’ll admit, this direct, no-nonsense quality has always been a part of my being and has only become more developed and uncensored as I get older. But, Oh my God, has it caused me some problems!  But here’s the thing: I used to care about the problems, now I don’t.

My children often remind me that I have a filter from brain to mouth about the depth of a quarter – I agree with them. However, the other quality that is actively working in the background is that of discernment and learning to carefully “pick my battles.”  I no longer feel the need to address or contend with every rude, ignorant, or stupid thing/statement/behavior that comes my way. I’ve discovered the beauty in prioritizing who and what gets my very valuable words, time and energy. For the majority of people, they just simply get my silence or a side eye look, or both. My emotional peace remains intact as I happily walk away.

Nope, there’s nothing wrong with my people skills. I just have no more tolerance for negativity, over inflated egos, drama, disloyalty, selfishness and confusion. And I’m not buying that crap about “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” No! I don’t want anyone in my inner vibrational orbit who doesn’t mean me any good. I’m not interested in what my “enemy” is doing or how they’re doing it and they can kick rocks and peek into someone else’s life, because if you’re not for me, you’re not with me.  Why would I intentionally give my enemy access to any part of my life? Just to watch them watch me? Nope, I don’t think so.  I’ll continue to let God and the universe take care of my enemies. I got things to do.

On Rejection:

“Rejection is God’s Protection.” Author Unknown.

It has only been in the last several years of my life that I can honestly attach myself to this quote. I think in some ways, I’ve know this to be true, but I never summed it up as well as these simple words do.

More than once in my life I have found myself wondering why many of the things that I wanted didn’t work out for me. These could be material things such as the purchase of a home or car that I wanted at the time or even a particular job. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my disappointments in my love life and wanting and wishing that certain people/person was a part of it.  In all honesty, in the past, I have longed for things and people who, for unknown reasons at the time, remained out of my reach. I often remember how angry, deflated and even outraged I’d become.  Oh how unfair life was to me! Nothing ever worked out for me! Those were two of my most frequently used mantras.

For a long time I walked around feeling left out and slighted.  And then, one day, not sure protectionwhen, but one day it clicked for me. Sure, life is unfair and bad things happen to good people all the time – and even worse – good things happen to bad people, too. That’s just life. But what really clicked for me is when, in the past several years (probably when I turned 50), I began to see that things that I used to want so badly – or the people who I thought I wanted in my life – would have been big mistakes and would have caused me more heartache than I could have imagined.

I’m not saying that God has revealed every reason for every single thing that was ever withheld from me. No, that’s not true. However, He continues to allow me discover my own truths and through this process, my spiritual eyes are opening and I see differently with those eyes. My spiritual eyes see that everything that I thought was good for me simply wasn’t. I’ve discovered that nothing good was truly withheld from me and that I am currently living my best life – right now, right in this moment. I’ve had more than my fair share of disappointments, heartbreaks and failures – professionally and personally. I’ve had to slay some demons, face some ugly truths and put on my big girls panties often.  But guess what? I’m still here and I’m not just surviving, I’m thriving –

“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant” – Maya Angelou.

On Grey Hair & Aging:

Most days I look in the mirror and say, “Girl, you’re looking mighty good at 57” (mind you, I didn’t say “for” 57 – there’s a difference) And most days that is exactly how I feel!  And then there are the other days – less often, but true – when I look in the mirror and say, “Wow, you look old today.” Or “You look old AND tired today.” And there are some days where, even before I look into a mirror – just getting out of bed – I feel “old” and achy. I can go to bed feeling great at night, and wake up feeling like I’ve been in a fight during the night and I lost.

age-2My grey hairs are coming in more frequently now. Although my family has a history of being “hard to grey,” it doesn’t mean we don’t. The majority of my ancestors and living relatives grey slowly and more “salt and pepper” rather than wake-up- one -day -and -completely grey.  I used to think this was a good thing – hey, I wouldn’t have to deal with a complete head of grey hair for a long time.

My natural hair is very long, unprocessed and thick. I haven’t put a relaxer in my hair in almost 10 years and it’s very healthy. However, I do weave or crochet some hair into my natural hair on a regular basis. Not because I have to, but because I chose to. I take good care of my natural hair, but Lord help me if I had to maintain, comb and style it daily. I do not have the patience or energy for that – never been a hair person. So, I do whatever makes life easier for me.

Now the funny thing is, I wish the grey would just come on in and stop playing! The grey comes in mostly around the edges and ONLY just a little and the majority of my hair is completely dark brown. So to me, my hair doesn’t have that beautiful salt and pepper look or completely grey look that I would be proud to rock naturally. No. Instead it has that “Well I guess it is time to have some grey in your head, ole girl. So, here are a few scraggly strands to remind you that you’re not a spring chicken anymore!”  Thank you very much!

Seriously though, I laugh at it and chalk up my scraggly greys, my aches before I even get out of the bed – and sometimes while I’m laying in the bed – to a life filled with raising beautiful children to adulthood, marrying/living with their fathers and all the bullshit that entailed, being in the workforce for over 30 years and just showing up daily and being engaged in life.  I have laugh lines that are becoming deeper and are present even when I’m not laughing. That’s okay – I’ve earned them. Just as I’ve earned the right to NOT always look like I’m still in my late 30’s or 40’s (and I’ve been told this many times).  Of course it’s very flattering to hear that. What 50+ woman wouldn’t love to hear that she looks a decade, or more, younger than she really is! But the beauty about inner acceptance is that on those days when my body – for whatever reasons – is tired and the aging is more apparent when I look in the mirror,  is that it IS really okay to be okay with it and to embrace it. The pressure to always look younger, more beautiful, sexier, skinnier is just too much sometimes.

Sure, I’ve got my share of anti-aging nightly moisturizer that I ritualistically apply ALMOST every night. But some nights, I just take my wig off or wrap my weave up in a bonnet, brush my teeth, take a shower, and go to bed. Some nights, I’m okay with looking “my age” – however that may look on me. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and to me, that’s crazy sexy cool.age-1

For more of my insights on aging/middle age/sex, love and dating over 50, please check out my previous pieces:

Middle Age: Living and Loving It

Love, Sex & Dating After 50

50 Fabulous Facts About Being In My 50’s

(Just put these titles in the search bar)

 

Special thanks for the use of their content/imagery and a shout out to my new favorite page on FB:

The Fly Hip & Ageless

I’m so happy that I found them and I’m always renewed from the positive energy, sage advice, and beautiful human examples of aging beautifully.  I always feel like a badass after I visit their page!

Please check them out on Facebook at FB@Flyhipageless and follow them on Instagram: IG@Flyageless.

 

Other Photo Credits:  Pinterest, Photo Stock

 

Watering Your Own Garden

gardenI think I’m finally getting the hang of this “getting older” thing. Yeah, I’m starting to really see some perks of being a woman over 50. Besides the fact that I’m happier and feel sexier than ever (at least in my eyes I am and those are the only eyes that really matter!), I’m also learning how to do something that’s VERY important, but lost on so many. I’m learning daily how to MIND MY OWN DAMN BUSINESS!

I’ve realized that when I tend to my own beautiful flowering garden (a metaphor, of course, because I really don’t have a garden – but I do have some house plants) – but as I was saying – when I tend to my own “garden,” I’m not even the least bit interested in what’s going on in yours. Now, don’t mistake my carefree attitude as being selfish – it’s not. Of course I “care” like…well…sometimes I care, but not really. And when/if I do care, it’s the kind of “follow man, humanity” kinda caring, not the all up in your garden being nosey/envious type of caring. Yeah, at this point in my life, there are VERY few gardens other than my own that I care about watering and nurturing. Ok, now that I’ve explained that…moving along.

Anyway, as I’m getting older, life is becoming a lot more simple and uncomplicated. That is because I’VE become less complicated and relaxed. I just don’t need as much of anything anymore: material things, attention, the need to be right, the last word, or the approval of others- (lots more, but you can read my previous post entitled 50 and Fabulous to read more– type it in the search bar here on my blog.)

Another VERY important thing that I’m learning to let go – MY EGO! That bitch has gotta go! She’s has stressed and worried unnecessarily, she has second guessed me too many times in the past, she has been overly defensive and argumentative when I should not have taken things personally at all. My ego has misinterpreted positive, instructional criticism as being picked apart. Instead of listening and learning, my ego has shut it down immediately. She (my ego) has said, “Look at me and what I can do” or “See, I can do this better than you can” *Big Sigh* Honestly, she’s very exhausting and I really can’t think of a time when that bitch has served me well at.all. When my ego is involved, it NEVER turns out good. So, daily, slowly…but surely, I’m killing her off! She gotta go!

Minus my ego and the need to please or impress anyone or the need to be affirmed and validated by others, I’m left with a woman whom I simply adore: Me.  Here now is a woman who has an absolutely beautiful garden – changing, blossoming – some things die off, others bloom again. A woman who is not afraid to be wrong and discover right – nor is she compelled to say yes when she means no. A woman who has found her place in this world and is fine tuning her boundaries and honing her life navigational skills. That takes a lot of positive energy with no time to worry about someone else’s garden.

One other big lesson that I’m discovering: Go after whatever it is that you want, even if you don’t have all of your ducks in a row. You can start where you are right now. For example, and this is a true story, one day I was coming out of a store headed to my car. There was a man standing outside who was on a set of crutches and had a cast on his leg. Although he was a bit shabby looking and unkempt, he wasn’t a bad looking guy and you could see that he’d seen better days. He stood outside the door way and asked everyone who came and left for change. I was no exception. He asked if I had any change to spare and I did. I hadn’t had a chance to put away the .50 cents or so that I’d had in my hand after getting my change in store and I gave it to him, he thanked me and I started to walk off. But then the funniest thing happened. As I walked away, he called out to me and said, “Hey, can I get your phone number? I’d like to take you out sometimes.”  I’m cracking up just thinking about this again. Ummm….NO. Just absolutely, hell NO. Did I not just give this guy .50 cents? And now he’s asking me out on a date? What the what!??

Okay, there’s a message here, though. This dude was obviously broke and literally busted up, but he had the audacity and confidence to ask me out anyway! He took a chance despite the odds. Now, of course it didn’t go his way. I just stared at him in disbelief for a few moments and then started laughing at the ridiculous-ness of the situation. I just laughed, shook my head no and proceeded on my way.  Regardless of my response, he stepped out on faith – no ducks in a row – panhandling and on crutches and not concerned with what I or anyone else thought.

For Peace: Water your own garden and grass and let others tend to theirs. For Joy: Kill or tame that ego. For manifesting your dreams: Move forward in confidence, despite what it looks like.

EVOLUTION: SHEDDING REQUIRED

shedding-1I didn’t make any – not one – resolution for this New Year.  I realized that I was just fine in 2016 the way I was and it’s good enough for 2017.   I’d come to the decision long before January 1st rolled in that I wasn’t interested in “resolutions” as much as I was intent on the idea “evolution.” It is a journey of perpetual unwrapping, unraveling and profound discovery – a process that is oblivious to the days on the calendar, the time of year and even to the jarring of my soul. The evolutionary process did not ask for my permission or for my consent. It was insidious and hitched a ride on the back of grief and loss. It required nothing more than me getting up with each new day – putting one foot in front of the other and moving about my life. I’d felt the stirring of change within my being, but attributed it to confusion and despair. And it was. However, confusion and despair were the catalysts for the change that would come without warning – the awakening that would rumble and shake me up – the evolution of my spirit.  I didn’t have a choice. It felt like the natural progression of things in my life.

This was not the kind of thing that would or could wait for something as trivial as a resolution for the New Year. No. This was to be a continual, wonderfully glorious, frightening journey that would require days, months and years. It would demand that I baby step my out of long-held religious beliefs, traditions, and ideas. This journey would insist that I lay down my fears of about a vengeful and self-serving God who would punish me if I didn’t believe as I was told to believe and do as I was instructed in the bible or in some church. Whoa! Talk about a scary thing to actually do! Look, it felt like blasphemy just thinking about it or even questioning God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and their mere existence and his/their roles in my life.

Like so many of us, I was raised with these beliefs – passed down from those who had it passed down to them. To question or doubt anything – validity or otherwise – would be unheard of. I lived my life – for the most part – under this ideology and generational inheritance. But here’s something that I have learned in this expansion: I don’t even believe that I was a better human being before now. I wasn’t worse, but I definitely wasn’t better.  And truthfully, I’m not even sure if I’m “better” now because along with this awakening comes questions – lots of questions about things that don’t make sense or line up…and many times no answers that “fit.” But I am more awake than I ever have been before and that, for me, is everything.

The shedding process is painful and difficult and your demons will meet you at the crossroads. But once I allowed the dissipation of fear, religion, and condemnation to fall away from my soul, the warmth of REAL self-love, curiosity, and freedom replaced it. I put in the work – I dug down inside my essence and scraped out blind fear and blind faith and made room for the courage to pursue my truth and understanding in my own way, without fear of being condemned to a hell below. Truth be told, we got hell right here on earth – just watch the ugliness on the news and right in our communities daily.awakening

My evolution is ineffable and would not be limited to a mere New Year resolution. It remains, for me, a daily quest to seek peace and my truth unapologetically. It is a holistic process and I continue to do the hard stuff all year ‘round – re-birthing my spiritual self, reclaiming a healthier physical lifestyle and removing those smudged eyeglasses that I wore that only allowed for tunnel vision, narrow mindedness and fear. Once removed, my spirit has been flooded with brilliant colors and light that propel me on my path.  I am forever thankful to the Most High for allowing me the privilege to live by my own definition and enjoy the beauty of discovery on my own terms and without confinement, timidity, angst, trepidation or limitations.

Wishing you all a new year filled with light, peace, joyful discoveries and your own truths.

My Post Election Thoughts

liberty-ladySince the recent Presidential election, I’ve, very honestly, been at a loss for words. Tomorrow will be a week since …oh wow, it’s still even hard for me to say the words, but I’ll press through for this piece. **Clearing my throat** It’s been almost a week since President Elect Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. Okay, I said it – Lord have mercy! There hasn’t been one time this week that I’ve thought about this election and “Lord have mercy” wasn’t followed behind that thought. Like so many of you, the day after the election, I walked around in a fog – zombie like. It was surreal and I was hoping that I was going to wake up from a really bad dream. But no…it wasn’t a dream. It was the reality and result of a democratic electoral vote system that seriously needs an overhaul! Why do we NOT use the popular vote to elect the people we want? I’m still confused by this.

The days have moved on and here we are almost a week in. Truth be told, I’ve watched very little television in the past week. I just was not able to sit and listen to the media talk about the president-elect and what’s next. Instead, I chose to pop in a few movies, attempt to finish writing another chapter of my book, I hit the gym more frequently and rigorously than ever, reconnected with my meditation zone and have really tried to find a higher frequency to tune into – seeking silence, stillness and peace. It was the only thing I knew to do in light of all that is going on around me. I sought places of comfort, safety and that which brought feelings of normalcy to me.

In the midst of my confusion, anxiety and disbelief, I have managed to find some humor and laughter in this mess. I’ve seen and shared a meme (included here) that brought me to tears in laughter when I saw it. Yep, Ms. Liberty with the cigarette summed up my feelings perfectly! I’ve been a non-smoker for more than two years now – I used to love a glass of wine and a nice wine flavored Black and Mild short. But I gave those up (NOT THE WINE, Just the smokes – a girl’s gotta have something!) But truth be told, I felt like going to the corner gas station, buying me a couple of shorts and joining Lady Liberty on the steps. But I didn’t resort back to smoking, but I damn sure thought about it! There are just some times in a woman’s life when she needs a cigarette! Another laugh I got was when someone reminded me that 8 years ago, when President Obama was elected, this is exactly how all the non-Obama supporters felt – ready to leave the country! I wonder how many really did?  I also got a laugh during a conversation about every Billy Bob and back wood Bubba and Bertha who hadn’t voted in a decade came out to vote for Trump this year!”  Yep, and we did the same thing when our President ran 8 years ago – we went and took Ree Ree, Tay Tay, mama and nem to register and to the polls that day. We went to pick up our intoxicated uncles and our aunties with no cars and proudly drove them to the voting locations. We turned out for President Obama. We were excited and thrilled and the possibility that a black man could be President? Well, we were simply beside ourselves and over joyed! If you didn’t vote at all – for whatever reason you convinced yourself – then you “voted” for Donald Trump. If you wasted your vote on an independent candidate who never had a chance in the first place, then you also voted for Trump. Period.voting

I turned on the evening news for the first time earlier this evening. I figured some of the rhetoric may have died down by now and I could possibly stomach it a bit more. I have chosen never to watch the 11:00 P.M. news before bedtime – way too scary and depressing to fall asleep listening to. However, I do TRY to stay tuned at least with the early evening news – local and worldwide – so that I know what’s going on around me; Although, I’m not sure anymore that that’s even such a good idea. Can I really live in oblivion?  Anyway, I sat down at my writing space with the television on and began to eat dinner there. The local news was giving a report of what’s happening in my community:

Today, a shootout happened in a local area shopping parking lot. It is believed that three men were shooting at two other men across the parking lot. Two innocent bystanders were shot – a 54 year old woman was shot in the back as she stood in front of her car in the parking lot and a 20 something year old man was shot in his leg as he exited one of the stores in the shopping center. Both have been rushed to the hospital in critical but stable condition. Dekalb county police arrived but were unable to apprehend the suspects.”

They mentioned the location of the shopping center – it’s not that far from my house. It’s not a shopping center I visit, but I have been there before when I first moved to Atlanta. But that doesn’t matter – the location is random and incidental. This kind of senseless violence is daily and rampant. The next story talked about the explosion of gangs in the Metro Atlanta area :

“…15,000 documented gang members here in this city and for every 15,000 documented member, there is at least 3-5 that are undocumented, which means the number is closer to 40,000 gang members in metro Atlanta.

The news told me to tune back in at 11:00 to listen to a jailhouse interviews with gang members. I will not be tuning in at 11:00. I must admit, there is a part of me that wants to know about it because I want to know JUST how bad it REALLY is…truth is I already know. But the part of me which seeks the Most High and His comfort – that part of me who seeks peace and some sort of reconciliation of this madness – she, who is me, who hopes to find human compassion and kindness in a world of soulless cruelty and bitter self-loathing – will NOT be tuning in at 11:00.

I shut the television off and decided that I had to find my words tonight to write this piece. My lost words had to be gathered up and strung together and put out into this universe. I had to add my two cents to the pot of collective confusion, fevered frustration and, more tangibly, fear. But here’s the thing about my fear: I’m more concerned and suspect about the people who look most like me and live in my communities and neighborhoods. I’m cautious and always prayerful when I’m out in this world – in my community, shopping or running errands – doing every day common things that require us to leave our homes. I’m always prayerful when I leave my house – for myself and my children – and I’m always thankful to God when I return to the safety of it afterwards.

**Shaking my head and sighing loudly** Should I be afraid of what the President Elect will represent for me and so many others like myself?  I’m concerned and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes. I have been reminded in the past week, however, that we as black folk have survived a great deal in America – slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights, and now just being black and surviving day to day. I see all the protesting going on around the country – none of it will remove him from office, – Oh I wish it were that simple! But I get it. I get the feeling of discord and dissatisfaction that looms in the air behind this election. I get it – the absolute “What the Fuck!” sentiments. I feel it, too. But truthfully, what I’m REALLY concerned about NOW is what’s happening in my own neighborhood from and to the people who look like me.

In the aftermath of this election, I’ve read and heard collective voices summoning us, black and brown people, to come together and stand strong in unity. Seems like a good idea, but then it always was a dream of our past leaders and civil rights soldiers, wasn’t it? The sad truth is that we – black people – do not come together. We are disconnected from each other and until we connect and REALLY love each other, there will be no unification of our people. There is just too much hate in this world – in our community – in our neighborhoods – in our hearts.

For all that we black folk have weathered together, triumphed over and thrived into, is this what we’ve come to? Where did the hate come from? We KNOW white folks didn’t (many still don’t) like us, but when did we start not liking each other? Wasn’t there a time – not so long ago –when we were all we had? Donald Trump in the White House makes me angry. Seeing the daily reports of insidious cancerous violence against each other just makes me sad.