Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I See You

I liked the film Avatar for many reasons: I'm a geek and like special effects; I got to wear cool 3D glasses; Sci-Fi speaks to my wild imagination; the Na'vi were cooler than humans; I was sitting next to a cute boy. But beyond all of these obvious draws, there was something small, yet really kind of profound to take away: "I see you. "Yeah...maybe you missed that...

Well, I didn't miss it and I think speaks kind of deeply to our (21st Century "Western") tendency towards self-absorption. We really like people to see us, but we aren't so good at seeing others. We spend so much time and effort and concern on getting other people to see our specialness in lieu of ever taking the time to see their specialness (and no, not that kind of specialness). Think about it, when's the last time you were with someone and they spent more time finding out about you than they did talking about them? If you've had this experience in recent memory, it's probably safe to say you remember it because it happens so very seldom. But then again, when's the last time you spent time with someone and were more concerned with getting to know them then you were in presenting yourself? Eek, right?

Yet, beyond our shameless displays of self promotion (yes, shameless), all most of us all are also guilty of projecting what we want to see onto others because (1) it's easier and (2) we like to see what we want to see. We do it because it's easier to understand us than it is for us to understand "them". However, they are indeed not "us," so our projections only serve to create false facades where actual, complex, interesting, people should be.

So, what does it mean to see someone? Hmm, good question. Let's explore

Seeing is Selfless

To see is to put yourself aside. It is to defer self to another. We don't like doing that because by nature, we are attention whores and we like to know other people are thinking about us, because, heck - we're thinking about us. Yep, just because we're not all dancing on tables with our shirts hiked up doesn't mean we don't like being the center of our own and everyone else's universe.

Seeing is Patient
Hmm, how so? Well, seeing means waiting for the other person to reveal themselves - as quickly or as slowly as they may do so. This is hard because we often want what we want when we want it...and sometimes folks don't comply. How about we learn to just "sit back, shut up, and enjoy the ride" of getting to know the people in our lives. All will be revealed in time.

Seeing is Honest
Seeing requires the "see-er" to be willing to accept whatever it is that's there. This is tough because we like to lie to ourselves and see in people only what we want to. Usually this means reducing people to simple characitures (bitch, jerk, man/woman of my dreams, etc...). Being honest means acknowledging the complexity of what we see - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Apology Language? Yep, got one of 'em too...

"You have chosen Accepting Responsibility as your primary Apology Language. What you are looking for in an apology is maturity. You most want to hear the offending party say, I was wrong and I take responsibility for my actions."


So, so true. I hate apologies that include excuses or deflection and likewise, I don't make them. If you're in the wrong...own up full out. Period. Doesn't it just seem easier? Is that just what grown-ups do?

When it comes to apologizing, things will never be made right without a flat out acceptance of responsibility by the guilty party - whether it be me or them. So what is this all about?

1. It's about the ability to be honest with yourself
Excuses serve as an attempt to convince ourselves and others that we really didn't do anything wrong. Excuses are there to explain away bad behavior, not atone for it. Ick, if someone can't be even be honest when their mess is glaring, issues ensue - and rightly so.

2. It's about being secure enough with yourself to fess up to making a mistake

Owning up to a mistake or shortcoming requires admitting that you're not perfect. Nuff said...

3. It's about putting someone else before yourself

Deference is a lost art, sadly. Apologizing without excuses means that you understand that excuses won't cut it - that you comprehend the gravity of being careless or otherwise disrespectful to folks (particularly folks you care about). Like "I respect you so much I'm not even going to go there with the bullsh*t."

4. It's about demonstrating that one understands the error of their ways

Nothing is worse than dealing with a person that just doesn't get it, as they will be a repeat offender. It is just the truth that sometimes we all have erroneous ways and not understanding them is highly problematic. Owning up signals to the other party that you understand your wrongness and that they can trust that it won't happen again.

"Quality Time" = My Love Language

As a child, my mom was all about the "5 Love Languages." I thought it was all pretty cool, but whatever...I had better things to think about (like JTT and prairie dresses...don't ask).

But as an adult, I'm beginning to believe that understanding a little bit more about how I give and receive love is kind of important. So, I took the test and...(drumroll please)...

My love language is Quality Time. No duh. It's not gifts, or acts of service or physical touch or words of affirmation - it's time...

If I love you, like you, otherwise give a d*mn about you, I'm gonna want some time. With this time I can really care less what we're doing (smancy restaurant or a taco stand/vacationing through Europe or watching a playoff long as I'm with you, I'm good) and would prefer if you would stay off your phone while doing it. I recognize that I tend to judge relationships (romantic and otherwise) by how well we spend time doing nothing at all. The litmus test is this: if stuck in an elevator for 8 hours without any other diversion, could we have a good time?

So, time is good. However, if you eff up quality time, we are going to have problems. Absolutely nothing makes me more upset than someone who messes with my time. If it's planned and I think you're something special, it's guaranteed that I'm looking forward to it....maybe even excited about. Hence why being flaky with time is probably my pet peeve numereo uno.

Alternately, if I don't really like you I'm going to be hesitant to give you my time...but I digress.

I suppose understanding one's love language is good not just in that it allows you a better perspective of self, but it also helps to not project self onto others. Meaning: assuming that everyone else expresses love through quality time will only served to hurt my own feelings (like when someone gives me a gift, or a kind act, or a compliment instead of a one-on-one). While understanding doesn't negate the fact that I still need quality time in order to be fulfilled and happy in a relationship (and the fact that I will always be hurt most by time-related infractions), it will come in handy in being able to communicate my needs and understand the needs and expressions of the others.

So, take the test. What language do you speak?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Birthday Musings: Part II

This has been a pretty fun weekend and I've been trying to come up with coherent, profound things the whole time, but alas, epic fail. Only more disparate thoughts. Or rather, as I would like to reclassify them - tidbits of unfathomable erudition.

1) Letting go is the easiest thing in the world to do. So, why it is also the hardest?

In theory to let something go requires no effort at all, but as humans, letting go of feelings, a person, a dream, a relationship, etc..., is just about one of the hardest things ever. Why? Well, I suspect it means letting a little (or big) piece of ourselves go with it and that's painful as hell.

2) Boys like girls in silly hats

Particularly if you wear it and own it. I dunno why...I should ask around and then buy more hats.

3) Problems arise when one person is sure and the other isn't. It is cacophonous and horrible.

Yeah, that's pretty self explanatory.

4) Staring at the two small mountains of laundry in the middle of my bedroom floor will not make them wash, dry, fold and put themselves away.

They have been there a full 28 hours now, maybe I'll get to it tomorrow (? + shoulder shrug). But hey, at least I sorted.

5) I am indeed a hopeless flirt, but once I'm in...I'm in. No worries.

It's a blessing and a curse and I suspect I get it from my dad, who is also a terrible flirt (grocery store checkers, church ladies, policewomen, my grandmother's elderly friends). I think as long as I find a secure partner (like my momma...but male) it'll all work out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Birthday Musings: Part I

13 minutes until my 26th Birthday and I have nothing to write about. I do, however, feel obliged to write something.

1) I found a flower fascinator (hat-ish thing) with a veil at Forever 21 today for $8.00...I will be wearing it tomorrow evening. I am very excited about this

2) I share a birthday with both Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers, which is pretty cool. They both exhibited that old hollywood, but brusque glamour I admire so much.

3) My heart and mind are free tonight, but my body is exhausted. Two out of three isn't bad.

4) Soulja Boy makes nonsense, not music..."Pretty. Boy. Swag"...ugh

5) I've made some great friends this first year in DC, I'm a lucky girl. But I still miss my lovies in all of those other states. Shout-out to Cali, Nevada, South Carolina, KEN-tucky, and Ohio...

6) This year, I'm gonna live more in the present. Allow what will be, to be...and leave it at that. I'm getting older and I don't have energy for chasing pavements anymore. SMH.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From Angela to Target: Mainstreamin' Natural

You can find most things in Target. It's the serious one stop shop, but haircare has always been tricky for us Black girls. While in recent years, Target (and other stores) have expanded their Black hair care options, a few months ago I was thrilled to run into an endcap displaying a variety of brands of hair products for natural, "ethnic" curly hair. Pretty spectacular.

When I began transitioning about 3 years ago, going natural was still considered a revolutionary event. For me (in the heyday of my grad school, Angela Davis, bell hooks Black feminist glory*), it was about decolonizing the self - rejecting the imposed standards of beauty that have more Black women than not slathering a concoction of unknown, probably carcinogenic chemicals onto our heads every six weeks. It just stopped making sense to keep spending money damaging and stripping layers off of my God-given hair in an effort to have my sh*t bounce around like a white girl - because well, I'm not a white girl...and I like it that way (no offense to white girls, I hope they like themselves too).

I grew out the chemicals, did the big chop and have never looked back...and I've never had to. For Black women, going natural has gone from counter-cultural to mainstream and lots of us are selling out. It's a beautiful thing.

With the help of some cool-chick celebs and some crazy good new hair care products for curly, Black girl hair (Kinky-Curly, Miss Jessie's, Hair Rules, DevaCurl), going natural is getting easier, as is should (being "natural" and all). Imagine: Black women loving ourselves and embracing our hair just the way it grows out of our scalps...(still)revolutionary indeed.

*Perhaps more of a subtle version of this self, it is still my doubt.
**I love Amel Larrieux's hair (in the pic above) day *sigh*

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ear Candy: Esperanza Spalding

Work was crazy and the day flew by...without much time for ponderin'.

But who needs that today...? How about some good music. My little sis posted a video from Esperanza Spalding on my Facebook wall the other day and I kind of dig her.

Plus, she's got cool hair and I'm partial to chicks with cool hair...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Goodness and Getting Ready

Good things come to those who are ready. Thus, it would make sense to be ready...and folks, I'm getting there. I'm freed up, with lessons learned and experiences to put under my belt and it feels kind of good. I'm closer to being able to receive those good things that are meant for me...make no mistake, there are lots of really good things in my future.

But getting ready is painful. Maybe it has to be, maybe it doesn't and I'm just hard-headed, but there is something about being in a space where you are conflicted and wounded and muddled that tenderizes and prepares you for something much better.

Perhaps it is developing the ability to appreciate goodness. Without having experienced the bad and the ugly, how can we truly recognize and value the good? Moreover, it could also be about preparedness: developing and exercising your own skill set (how to care and love and cherish and fight and be honest and patient and kind and discerning and all of those other things) in order to know what to do with goodness when it gets to you.

But probably most importantly, getting ready has a lot to do with getting to the place where you really - deep down in your gut - believe that you deserve good things. Not deserving from a position of thinking you're the shit arrogance, but out of the knowledge that you have been good - that you have practiced goodness. Striving for perfection is just silly, but there is something to be said for extending hope and encouragement, being kind even when others are not, putting others before yourself, coming correct when you need to, and doing your part to make things right when they are wrong, etc...

I suppose it would be tough to reconcile one's self with getting good things if you haven't given them - the only thing to do would be to reject and/or sabotage them. But with the above understanding in your headspace, I believe good things are inescapable. Yeah?

Aw, me an optimist.

Friday, July 9, 2010

On Patience...for the sake of love and instrumentals

There is a reason that 1 Corinthians 3:14 starts out with "Love is patient...."

Patience just might be the most underrated quality ever required to make it through life. Downplayed to a point where it gets just kind of skipped...glossed over...forgotten about.

I'm writing on patience because I don't have much and need more. This last year has been all about growth and I have learned a thing or two about patience when it comes to waiting on things to fall into place. But I'm afraid, when it comes to having patience with other people, I'm quite lacking. This is obviously...a problem. If love is first and foremost, patient - this is something worth working out.

Having patience with others is kind of like listening to an good instrumental. I love good music and good musicianship, but I get ancy after a while when I don't hear what I'm looking for (lyrics), even when I know they aren't there. However, if I can take a some time and acquiesce to just listening to it for what it is, I soon find myself really appreciating and enjoying it.

Some more directed thoughts:

So, what does it mean to show patience with people? It means allowing other people to be who they are, and then...respecting it. Recognizing that everyone has their own paradigms, processes, and ways of doing things, patience means being okay with this - it means respecting the way another does life in the same way that I respect the way I do life. It means not imposing my "way" onto another under the guise of best-ness, "efficiency" or anything else. Many of us get paid to do this at work, but in our interpersonal relationships...maybe it's not such a good look.

Having patience with people also means surrendering to the fact that I will not always get what I want from them when I want it. This seems so rudimentary, right? But alas...I know I'm not the only person with this struggle. So many times we want people to respond, react, interact with us in particular ways and then, sometimes they don't. How about being more okay this? How about deferring our expectations until we have a better understanding of the larger picture?

Patience means being consistent when I don't feel like it. How so? Well, it regards to love...maybe it means deciding to love someone even when I wake up and don't feel like it that day. Maybe it means not giving passing sentiments precedence over allegiances. Patience may mean that "stick-to-it-iveness" that sometimes requires me to sit back and wait it out...(ugh)

So, I'm tapped...

Your thoughts on patience?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summertime Readin' and such...

How about this: I don't care where LeBron is going...

Wait for it...

I didn't implode.

Basketball is real cool and all, and I like to watch it, but c'mon it really all that serious? I suppose so.

Anyway, that had nothing to do with what I wanted to write about...I just kind of wanted to put it out there since all of the world is tuned in to ESPN breathlessly awaiting the announcement. SMH

Books! Let's talk about those. It's summer time and summer time should always include books. Regardless of the fact that jobs are year-around, reading is a summer staple so I'm making a list. What to read this summer?

Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea
I really, really love Allende. She's a magnificent storyteller. I've actually already read this one (like three weeks ago), but I'm gonna re-read it this summer because it was such good stuff. Set in 19th century Haiti, this story was epic but subtle....and fascinating.

Helena Andrews' Bitch is the New Black
There has been so much hype around this book, I'm gonna have to check it out. Plus, it got a great review from Sista Toldja (who is a VSS, if I may say so) I'm kind of excited about this one...might be my weekend splurge. I'm a 20-something Black, single professional in DC - I think I owe it to myself.

Toni Morrison's Paradise

...because I'm working my way through her collection and am more than half way done!

Ntozake Shange's Liliane

I've at this one for forever, but have never actually read it. It's about time I did.

A. Breeze Harper's Sistah Vegan

This pick is a nod to all of my vegan folks who try their best not to look disgusted when I order a formerly living thing in front of them. I really love meat, I do. But maybe I shouldn't. For the sake of intellectual honesty, I'm going to entertain this argument.

That's a pretty decent start, eh?

What are you reading?

My Mind's Gone to Costa Rica...

I'm feeling quite "blah" this afternoon. It's 95 degrees here in the Chocolate City and we're melting (particularly after three days of over 100 degree suffocation). Needless to say, my mind has wandered elsewhere and it's not coming back before 5pm. What am I thinking about? I'm thinking that I really want to go Costa Rica in October. Sure it's still the rainy season there, but I can deal with that because it's inexpensive. From afar, it appears that Costa Rica has the two things I really, really like - forests and beaches - so I'm down. Hmmm...let the plotting begin.

P.S. I really wish folks would stop Ccing me on all of their emails.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

26th Year on Earth

I'm now counting down to my 26th birthday. Pretty exciting stuff. Birthdays are not such a huge deal to me, but I am genuinely enjoying getting older. Twenty-six is just another step in the right direction - every year I'm growing wiser, more gracious, more thoughtful, less silly and more comfortable in my own skin. Realizing I have a long way to go until that Susan Taylor/Toni Morrison/Cicely Tyson hybrid I aspire to develop into (aimin', I'll take every year I can get because I am still green and clumsy and at times, still careless and silly and insecure. So, as I'm thinking about my impending birthday how about deciding on some things to work on this 26th year on earth.

Here it goes (in no particular order):

1. Accepting my body for what it is...and isn't.

So, I'm not "thick" or curvaceous or perfect. And...? There are still some selling points. No one but me expects me to be perfect and that's just silly. As long as I am being kind to myself and treating me right, I should be happy with what I have and what I don't have.

2. Being less reactionary

I react strongly - sometimes too strongly - to nouns and verbs and adjectives (basically, a variety of things). I'm kind of an intense person that feels things viscerally and many times it's a great thing. When something is good, I can appreciate it for all it's a mountain-top view or a swim in the ocean or time with someone I care about or just a beautiful day. But when something feels bad, oh really sucks and I react accordingly (according to my experience and not necessarily according to how I should react). This year, I am going to work on taking a deep breath, or two, or three, or thousands before acting - even if it seems simple in the moment, complexity reveals itself in time.

3. Budgeting better

There are lots of things that I want to do and do them, I'm gonna need a trust fund a rich husband budgeting skillz...
Developing a reasonable budget that allows me to do some of these things (traveling, investing, paying off debt) and also has me putting plenty aside for a rainy day is a necessity. Now that I have a big girl paycheck to work with, this is definitely a priority...

4. Being more sensitive

Surprise, surprise...I'm a Cancer so this supposedly shouldn't be hard. I should be the pinnacle of sensitivity and empathy, but alas, I've been known to not do such a good job at picking up on subtleties. Perhaps the truth is, as a defense mechanism, I don't assume anything that isn't explicit...meaning that if someone hasn't said it or expressly put it out there, it doesn't exist. However, sometimes some things (feelings, thoughts, etc...) really do exist and I need do a better job seeing them. Maybe this is as simple as trusting my intuition or allowing myself to presumptively empathize with another person. How about trading "beyond a shadow of a doubt" with "beyond a reasonable doubt"? That might be a good place to start.

That should be enough for one year, right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

South Carolina and back again...on oceans and red dirt and stories

I randomly took a road trip this weekend and ended up in South Carolina. I enjoyed South Carolina much more than I thought I would - there was something about it that I found very appealing. If I ever decide to opt out of the rat race that is big-city livin' and take up some artsy, bohemian profession, I think I'll move there.

Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth:

1. Contrary to what I had previously believed, the Atlantic ocean is much warmer and more pleasant than the Pacific - making swimming plausible and actually enjoyable. This allows one the realization that there is something crazy delightful about ocean water.

2. The Southern folks on South Carolinian beaches are there for the experience and not to peacock around...they cannot be accused of vanity, which is a beautiful thing. Vanity, thy name is Californian.

3. The contrast of the rich green foliage and brick red dirt is splendid in a way that makes me want to live in a little white house in between.

4. People's stories are important and I heard a few of them: A biker on his fifth wife (who happened to have a tumor) was going to be cooking out for the 4th with his too-grown daughter and grandchildren. A displaced Southern housewife who hadn't had a vacation in years and dreamed of getting in the car and driving to who-knows-where. An seasoned jazz player and official South Carolinian ambassador of jazz who was helping to raise the baby grandson of his high school sweetheart - all after a full life of military traveling, teaching and music. They all had stories to tell and they told them.

In our busy lives in big cities, we minimize our stories in lieu of showcasing our status. Most of us urbanites would be mortified to expel our life story to a stranger upon introduction and are generally annoyed when others subject us to theirs. Instead, we'd rather ask and tell about jobs and titles and schools attended and vacations taken and neighborhoods lived in and all of the other things that really don't speak to who we are (only what we have or haven't accomplished).

So, what if we did the opposite? As the culmination of our experiences, our stories make us who we are - they are valid and significant simply because they are lived. Our stories are precious possessions that should be cherished and reflected on and shared and when we diminish our stories we are doing nothing short of diminishing the beautiful stuff about ourselves...and we can't have that.

So, what's your story?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good Energy & Affirmations

Positive self-affirmations are tough, especially to share. Why? Well, they are cheesy require the admission that you need them and they assert something about one’s self that we are at times unsure if anyone else believes – pretty much, they reveal insecurity. But really, we all have insecurities, which very from person to person but are inevitable. We are a human, we are vulnerable to self-doubt.

CurlyNikki (one of my favorite bloggers out there...natural hair guru and shrink) posted yesterday on affirmation and I thought I’d join in. I’m a space where I need as much good energy as possible…

My Affirmations for Friday, July 2nd, 2010

I am kind and enact goodness and positive energy

I am a loving and patient mother

I am loved by many amazing people

I am in the process of actively realizing my potential...and there's a lot of it

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No, Lauryn...Let's not light this fire...

Lauryn Hill says she's coming back, to which I say.."DON'T!"

I lived, breathed, consumed her first (and only) solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - it saw me through my high school years, which kind of sucked. She was like the wise older sister I never had, mixed in with a dose of some old-womanish sagacity that even my grandmothers were too far removed from to impart. Her lyrics were taped all over my bedroom walls along with pictures of Maxwell and Nick Carter (much to my dad's the tape, not the words), written in journals and in notes to friends, and at that very ingenuous time in my life, they were powerful...
What you want might make you cry
What you need might pass you by
If you don't catch it,
If you don't catch it,
And what you need ironically
Will turn out what you want to be
If you just let it,

I still go back there sometimes and it's still true...

Truth also is that I need to remember her as the Lauryn in the photo above...Not the carnival-like (and I'm not talking west-Indian here folks, just the good ol'fashioned kind) creature we saw recently. Her and her music have cemented themselves as a meaningful part of a chapter in my life and have become static for lack of replication...which, in this case, is the way it is meant to be.

Please Lauryn, don't crush my soul and "come back" with incoherent silliness. Remain a legend and stay retired...No one cares that you only had one solo album, because it was legendary and we still appreciate it, we do. Stay in the burbs, raise your kids, work with a life coach...just no more music. Do it for you, do it for us.

See what happens when you mess with a lesser Marley...SMH.