The Art Of Projecting

 

Do you remember these? Projectors. They're still around, they've just changed shapes. This one is nostalgic for me. The teacher would put a projector sheet, called a 'transparency, on it and whatever was on that sheet, would show up on the screen in front of everyone. The exact contents of the sheet, the transparency, would be projected onto the wall for everyone to see.

Projecting is something I'm really good at. I definitely mastered it over the years. Maybe because somehow it perpetuates the lie that I'm not cared about. And somehow, that allows me to stay in a place of self pity and guarded walls. I’m unsure why anyone would desire to live in such a place but over the years, i’ve found comfort here. Projecting my emotions and feelings onto others allows me to blame them instead of blaming myself. It's a terrible truth to admit; but it is the truth nonetheless.

I first noticed my projection when I had just gotten married to my amazing husband. Every time something would happen that displeased or hurt me, I would blame him. I would somehow find a way to make it his fault; even if he had absolutely no way of preventing the situation. Since recognizing this flaw of mine, I've worked hard to combat it. While I've gotten better, it's still a battle I face almost daily.

I'll pause here to give a definition and a couple examples of projection. An article I read on [citation] described projection like this:

"Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings."

There are several ways to project, blaming someone else for your own emotions is one of them. For example,: when I got pregnant with my first baby, I would get extremely hungry; as pregnant women often do. If I expressed my hunger to my husband and he was slow to respond, I would consequently blame him for my nausea or my overall discomfort. We would find ourselves in crazy fights because I compared that moment to all of the other times I've been disappointed or hurt by others. I blamed him for the fact that I felt unimportant and uncared for. I blamed him for the 100 times I've ever felt that way. He became the representation for my rejection.

A more recent example (like..it happened 10 minutes before writing this) is now I'm pregnant with my second child. It's about 11:30pm. We've had a very long day. I just finished cleaning the kitchen and mopping because I'm obsessive. We're moving in three days and our home is only half way packed. I make up in my mind that I'm going to come into the bedroom and pack the rest of my things (hoping that my husband will see me doing this and decide to do the same with his things).

Instead, he makes a comment that I should lay down (which I should) and reminded me that I was feeling lightheaded just an hour before (which I was). As soon as I realized that he would not be helping me pack, I began the “blaming and projection.” "He doesn't even love me enough to get up and help." "He should insist that I sit down while he pack because he knows it'll make me feel better" and so on and so forth. I began to blame him for not helping me. I blamed him for simply doing what was best for him -- resting. I stopped myself and alerted my conscious to what was really happening, I was projecting again.

I'm grateful yet annoyed that I'm able to so quickly identify where this projection comes from. In the first example, I compared my husband to my father. My father was always physically present but rarely emotionally invested. Whenever my husband disappointed me or fell short of my expectations (however  unrealistic or unexpressed those expectations were), I saw my father. I felt the emotions of being abandoned or not cared for. I was reminded of my feelings of unworthiness. I’ve also recognized that I don't only do it with my husband. If something fails, it’s easy for me to find a way to blame others. When I’m disappointed by friends, I begin to rationalize that they simply don’t love me enough.

Because I've seen it in myself for years, I see it in others as well. People misconstrue and misread situations because they're projecting an internal feeling or insecurity onto others. A young woman feeling as if no one likes her because they make comments that remind her of her past. A person feeling mistreated or unloved because others may make comments that remind her of her negative self talk. A young man claiming that a woman isn't good enough simply because he's in denial about his feelings of unworthiness or insecurity.

There are different forms of projection. What I deal with is a form of emotional displacement that simply blames others for my misery and discontentment. I will say that I'm much better at recognizing and fighting it these days. I've learned that ultimately, the only person who can control my emotions, is me. No matter how hurt I am, how disappointed I am, how much someone else could be blamed; I control how I feel. I control what I do. I control where my mind goes.

And so do you.

Can you identify projection in your own life? If so, good, now that you’ve identified it, it’s time to learn to fight and control it. Not only for the sake of your loved ones and your relationships; but for the betterment of your overall mental and spiritual health. I live better when I recognize that I have all the power in the world to change how I feel and how I view life. If you haven't already, once you recognize that, you'll live better too.

My Culture Never Loved Me

“Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” – E.B. Tylor

Culture is stupid. Culture is beautiful. It’s often contradictory and some days, oppressive. It’s annoying. Yet it’s necessary. It’s the quintessential norm that we live and breathe in order to belong. In order to identify ourselves. I’ve always loved culture but I’ve often felt that culture never loved me.

I know, how dramatic right? I agree. However, it is indeed my truth. I was raised by two Nigerian parents who immigrated to America in 1986 for a “better life.” They went to school here, worked here, had children and built a legacy here. My two brothers and I grew up in a house that sat in the suburbs of Smyrna, GA but it had the culture and isms of Nigeria all throughout. We had Nigerian rules. Spoke pidgin English. We watched Nigerian movies. Ate Nigerian food. Went to Nigerian parties. You get it. We are Nigerian.

11026595_10155911602945383_5896898389764896113_nWith all of that being said, much like any other culture, when you are Nigerian, you do what Nigerians do. You don’t hand your elders anything with your left hand. You kneel in the presence of prominent elders. You do whatever the hell your parents tell you to do. (If you’re a female) you don’t have a boyfriend until you’re 30 (and then you’re
practically berated for not being married with children). You get amazing grades, you go to college and you choose a major in which you can
make a lot of money i.e. doctor, nurse, lawyer, accountant, etc.

When graduating high school, I was told by my mother that I would go to Kennesaw State University and major in nursing. So I did. I went to KSU and I chose Nursing as my major. Halfway through, I realized I despised everything about nursing. Junior year, I changed my major to Non-Profit Administration. My mother hated it. All of her friend’s kids were majoring in scientific majors. They were on the path to be doctors and I wanted to do non profit what? it was a big debate in our home but the damage had already been done. My mind had been made up and I decided I would rather be happy then fulfill the expectations of my parents, or my culture.

I had failed my culture.

I graduated. I began working as a childcare director for the child
care center my parents owned. I was good at it. I stayed for two years and realized once again, I hated it. I quit. Then I came back. Then two years later, I quit again. My parents were furious. In our culture, it’s disrespectful to leave the family business. If you’re not employed by a career of prominence and wealth, you stay and run the family me and x in nativebusiness. You stay loyal to your family no matter how you feel about it. Clearly, I felt differently about my life.

Once again, I had failed my culture.

In between graduating and quitting the daycare, I fell in love and got married to an African American man. Luckily, my parents believe in true love. While they would have loved for me to marry a Nigerian, they wanted me to be happy and they saw that Xavier is a great man and makes me just that. However, if and when you ask several other Nigerians in our circle, they will declare that they wouldn’t accept their child marrying an american, especially a black american. There is this view that some Nigerians have of black Americans. I’m unsure of where it derives. Movies, stereotypes, experiences, etc. Either way, while my husband is accepted in my family, there are certain circles where I would get a major side eye for marrying him.


While I hadn’t failed my parents , I had failed my culture.

Months ago, we revealed that our son’s name would be Malik Xavier Brandon. My parents were furious. Apparently, Malik is considered a Muslim name and Southern Nigerians don’t name their children Muslim names. Seeing that this was a name my husband and I have prayed about, we weren’t and are not willing to change it. This has caused perhaps the biggest riff in the relationship between culture and I. It has become a very big problem and one that I never imagined would affect my family the way it has.

So now, as I sit feeling hurt and rejected, I ask myself why the hell I love culture so much. Furthermore, how do I belong to a culture, that I feel does not love me? The more I follow my heart and live in a way that I deem true to myself, the more I feel as if I’ve disappointed the very entity that makes me who i am. Who do I satisfy? Myself? My 285679521_640culture? My parents? How do i find balance and sanity in it all? Where are the allowances for authenticity and who determines what allowances can be made when culture is the standard? Have I failed my culture or has my culture failed me? My parents would declare that my constant habit of choosing happiness and authenticity shows that I disregard and disrespect my culture. In that instance, I ask myself how I find the balance in loving culture and loving myself?

I haven’t found the answers. It’s a never ending battle as I grow and live in my reality. Is culture supposed to love me? Or am I simply supposed to comply? What was the original purpose behind culture’s existence? As beautiful as my culture is, I question where I fit within it.

Marching Is Not The Answer

“If you want to change the test, go into public policy. If you want to teach at this school, get your scores up.”

This statement was made in an episode of Oprah’s new show on OWN, Greenleaf. The headmistress of the school made this statement to her teachers in reference to the standardized tests they were required to administer to the students. When someone spoke up about the tests being biased, her response was the above statement. If you desire to create change, you need to go where changes can be made. If you desire to simply work and live in the system, you must play by the rules of that system.

It struck me. It made me think. In the hellish climate of our great nation, the minds of many have been spinning in efforts to find solution, peace, and stability. We’ve been in conversations on and off social media, either strategizing or simply airing our disbelief and empathizing with one another. Sharing experiences and emotions that have been parallel across the black community. We are tired of black men being treated with no regard and we are ready to do something about it; we just don’t know where to start.

People raise their arms as they hold hands during a rally led by Black Lives Matter Oklahoma in Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Sunday, July 10, 2016. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
People raise their arms as they hold hands during a rally led by Black Lives Matter Oklahoma in Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Sunday, July 10, 2016. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

There are those who believe marching in the streets is the solution. They believe rallies and awareness will bring change. Others stand on the notion that if black people moved their money to the hands of our own versus the hands of the majority, change will begin. There are those who view both aspects and feel that more may be needed to see change. Some don’t see a problem at all. Others lean to violence to express their disapproval. We are all humans, feeling, asking, wondering, and upset. We are all here, staring into the abyss for a solution to trauma and constant tragedy.

“If you want to change the test, go into public policy. If you want to teach at this school, get your scores up.”

Through conversation, I realized that our view of the 1960’s civil rights marches may be skewed. I began to research and I realized that the leaders of those marches did so because they needed to bring awareness of what was happening. They needed to spread the word to the community and abroad. I was privileged to speak to a wise woman who has studied and taught Dr. King’s philosophies on non violent protest and communication.

“Dr. King taught that marching and other direct action is to dramatize and draw attention to the issue AFTER those protesting have tried to negotiate, have strategically educated themselves on all aspects, and have tried to negotiate with pertinent parties. Marching should also make it evident who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor. That’s why Dr. King emphasized dignity and nonviolence, even in signs and verbal expressions. A main goal was to win people to the side of justice.”– Dr. Vonetta West

After hearing her sentiments, I was curious as to whether social media has taken the place of marches or if all aspects are needed in order to see the results we desire. Her response: ” I believe we need all aspects. However, I think marching needs to be very strategic. Very.”

Through more thought, I wondered, is this the part that is absent in our current times of protest? Strategy? I must admit, I haven’t attended a march due mostly to pregnancy but I wonder how strategic these marches have been. In a poem I wrote years ago, I declared “it’s hard to start a 150821-blacklivesmatter3-editorialrevolution when my generation hasn’t seen one.” This generation isn’t lost. We want justice. We want to make a difference. However, the movement that was organized years ago during the days of Dr. King and so many others lie in the minds and memories of older generations. We are being awakened to a necessity for protest and change yet there are only a handful of us that have found the sense to communicate with older generations and those still connected to the original change makers.

Is Marching the answer? Sure. Is spreading information on social media the answer? Sure. Are organized protests and economic shift the answer? Sure. We need it all. However, above all, we need strategy. We need unity. We need to understand why the elders of the civil rights movement did what they did and how we can not only mimic but enhance their methods for the time in which we are currently living. The racism is and always has been systemic. Embedded in the rules and laws that we all are expected to follow. We can’t only attack the face of the oppression, we have to go deep into the places of policy and find strategic ways to uproot the lawful injustices that create our reality.

Above unity, togetherness and commitment; we must communicate and ask questions. We shouldn’t be too prideful to feel we have all the answers while also finding balance in knowing that we are powerful enough to discover them.  

 

Living In Chaotic Peace.

It’s time to admit, the past few weeks of my life have been emotionally, mentally and physically trying. From the ridiculous murders of black men to a warped vacation, moving, and family issues; I’ve been a complete mess on the inside. Simultaneously, for the past few months, I’ve found myself searching desperately for my fire. The fire that ignites my creativity and desire for life. It’s somehow escaped me and anxiety has become my oppressor.I try to hide it all. I try to live in the now and put on a positive face but the truth is, I’ve been slowly breaking down and tonight, I’ve realized that I’m the only person who can change my reality.

I was sitting in the rocking chair, holding my daughter as she drank her milk. Preparing to lay her down in her crib and I just couldn’t let her go. I wanted to stay in that moment for hours because there I found peace. I found peace in her stillness and her innocence. I found peace in the dark room. I found peace in being a haven of safety and comfort for her. And I wanted nothing more than to stay right there forever. Then I heard God. I heard God tell me that I had to not only find peace in the chaos, but I had to find a way to use the chaos as a catalyst for peace. Which sounds crazy. But I understood. I had to write. I had to express. I had to use all of my feelings to move me big-shot-calm-in-chaos_article_590towards creativity. I had to use my present to show me who I am. I can’t blame anyone or look for anyone to rescue me from this chaotic reality I’m living in. I can’t feel sorry for myself or desire that others have pity. I can admit that I have a long list of concerns and responsibilities but somehow I have to find a way to let creativity ring louder than burden.

I’m almost 9 months pregnant. We just moved to a new place a week ago. I’m preparing for a new baby; ensuring that he will have all that he needs when he enters this side of the world. We’re taking care of our 13 month old daughter. We’re trying to balance finances. We’re slowly unpacking and arranging the new place. I’m tired…all the time. We both work. We’re trying to make sure we keep the romance alive in our marriage.

It’s a lot. I’m allowed to admit that. However, I HAVE to somehow shift my focus from trying to solve every problem in my life to committing to living my life. Living it and loving it in every moment. So here I am, writing. Letting it all out. I’m allowed to admit that everything is OK yet i’m moved to acknowledge that everything really is OK.

I’m honestly unsure when I lost my fire. I’m unsure when anxiety became my oppressor. I’m unsure when I stopped smiling and living and started worrying and stressing. I do know that today, I’ve acknowledged my role in it all and I’m choosing to get back on the road of creativity and life.

Somehow, I’m letting chaos lead me to peace.

 

Are You Truly Living?

I awoke one morning around 4 am as I often do. My body has somehow programmed itself to hate me thus making me open my eyes way before sunlight hits my window. But whatever. As I was awake at the middle of the night, I decided to begin scrolling through social media in search of something to occupy my mind.

I began watching videos and looking at pictures of others living life. They looked happy. They were taking risks. They were being bold. I asked myself, “Are you really living or are you just obsessed with the concept of it?” The question frustrated me. It saddened me because in that moment, I was unsure that I could say with honesty that I was truly living my life. I recognized I had become burdened with doubt at times. Occupied by routine and responsibility, I’d fallen into the routine of making excuses for why I could not simply live.

This question sent me on a quest to discover who around me could declare they are living and what it truly means to live life. The quest was interesting. Filled with Facebook, GroupMe, and text message conversations, I discovered that many people associate the concept of living with having an abundance of money, traveling, being in their desired bbe6e5cfa19ece85b973f28432012d6ffield, having extra time to have fun, etc. As a person who quit her job and now makes my own schedule, I’m confident that living does not begin when you change your job or when you have money. Eventually, after asking myself and others several questions, I settled into a long conversation with God; which was my favorite part of this quest. I began as I always do, asking questions; letting my mind wander into the possibilities of what it means to live until I received what I felt to be profound and acceptable answers.

What if, living has nothing to do with money or a particular status in life? What if living is only partly about fulfilling desires? What if it’s also about being obedient to your spirit in each moment. Following it even when it feels and looks crazy? Jumping when there is no parachute to catch you. Standing when your legs are weak. Living begins when you make the decision to live. (I believe) living cannot be constricted into one section or place. You can be living life adventurously yet have such a burdened and resentful heart. Or you can love yourself and others yet neglect your desires because you deem them unworthy of fulfillment.

Living means so many different things for so many different people. There are many factors that come into play when evaluating whether or not you are living. Tailored to the individual, living is allowing your heart, mind and spirit to be open to the beauty and possibilities of life. Not holding yourself back because of carnal feelings (such as unforgiveness, offense, bitterness, fear, etc) but instead letting yourself fly and experience the supernatural. Allowing yourself to tread waters that may scream “keep out.” Experiencing euphoria in the sacrifice of appearances and the acceptance of others. Loving beyond walls. Doing the “impossible”. Challenging your own status quo. Finding beauty within your realm of circumstance. There are million ways to live life. You choose what that looks like. You choose what you’re willing to sacrifice. If you choose to sacrifice self-fulfillment in order to please your loved ones, and that is what living means for you, we shouldn’t dare tell you that you’re wrong until you yourself decide that it is no longer life-giving to you.

Maybe “living” changes and evolves as we do. Hopefully as you change,so do your desires, views and needs. For e47d87c2c06d54740efc49d5ef42da34some, living means following a routine. For others, it means having no routine. I believe as we were created, we have the right to live life however it so pleases our spirits. The standard is whatever has been placed inside of you. Knowing yourself, being unafraid to discover, believing in something bigger than yourself; all foundational when living. Maybe you live some days and others you don’t. Maybe some days, living means staying put in your home and watching TV, or reading, or doing whatever the hell you want.

I’m learning that I don’t know a lot. But I will ask questions. I inquire. I ask God for clarity. I evaluate myself, I talk to my best friends and my soulmates. I acquire peace in the midst of all of that. I find beauty in discovery. Beauty in the unknown and beauty in our ability to evolve, question and gain new revelation everyday.

and that for me, is living.

Him.

You were the first man I ever called beautiful. Years later, I still see you as such but my perspective has changed. I seeIMG_8259 you as so much more.

A fighter, a warrior with so much strength yet the sensitivity and humility to love me beyond what most would say I deserve.

You have never stopped being a great husband and for that, I honor you.

Then you became a father.  For the last year, I’ve seen your strength more than I’ve ever seen it before.
I’ve seen the IMG_9367epitome of grace in your patience. In your ability to love me and our baby so fervently and purely.
I’ve seen your ability to lead. Your gifts. You know how to grow & build a ministry my love,  you do it everyday with our family.
Because you’re a great father, I’m able to breathe on days where breath seems unattainable.
You allow me rest when I need.
You’re intentional and emotionally involved.
You’re gentle and kind.IMG_9532
I talk a lot of mess. I’m mean sometimes. I criticize how you do things.
But I can’t ever deny how perfect you are for me, our daughter and our baby boy.
I’m so so grateful that our children are able to experience your fatherhood.
I can’t believe you ever worried that you wouldn’t be a good father.
I never did. I never worried.
You’ve proven that I never had to. I love you so much. Obviously Brook adores you and I know our son will too.
Happy Fathers Day Baby.
I love you so much.

One.

3D_3

You were never a thought. Well, maybe a distant one. One I figured would surface when I was ready. When I was finished establishing my career and having fun with my husband.

and then you came. out of nowhere. unexpected but not prevented so I get it.

I wasn’t happy. I was disappointed and afraid of what may happen if you entered this world so soon before I deemed myself ready.

Before I deemed myself worthy.

Before I had conquered my fear

but it was too late, you were on your way

I knew that you would change my life, I just wasn’t exactly sure how.

I had heard so many things about motherhood. The good, the bad and the ugly but still I was determined to narrate my own journey

and I did.

Pregnancy with you was an experience. Much like your true personality, you were stubborn

You didn’t want to be seen by the cameras until you were ready and we were forced to wait until you graced Earth

forced to wait and see how beautiful you would be. and you were, so beautiful.

You met the world on June 16th, 2015. You cried for 2 seconds and then found peace as you rested on my chest

you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. and you still are.02-15-IMG_7990

my angel. my baby. my beautiful creation. my daughter. You’ve changed me.

You strengthened muscles in my mind that I never even knew functioned the way they do.

You bring me joy every time you breathe.

Your personality is a perfect combination of him and me.

You kept me alive. Literally. Stopped me from ending life because I knew you deserved to be here

DSC_2619and you helped me realize that I deserve to be here too.

With you, life is truly worth living.

I see myself through the Fathers eyes because you are His gift to me.

I know my capabilities because you were entrusted to me,

to be your mother, is a privilege.

To call you daughter is unreal.

It’s been 365 days of crazy mommy instincts and ever changing norms

I never understood the tears and emotional moments that mommies have when their children grow but I get it now.

It’s a profound reality that we control nothing but yet we’re blessed and graced to see a creation bloom as she was created to.

Happy Birthday My Baby Girl. You’re perfect.IMG_9371

Brooklyn Ayebapreye Brandon

Love: Choosing To Embrace

Love. The more I learn about it, the more often I question whether we truly love each other. Whether we love ourselves. I realize I’ve been truly ignorant to what it truly means to love someone. Acknowledging someone’s differences and loving them for those differences, are two different things. We often say we love each other for our differences yet we spend so much time complaining and criticizing what we don’t understand. What we don’t like.

We spend time pushing each other to be different; or like us. We miss the foundation of love when we begin to dictate what is “right” or “wrong” about a person when we weren’t the ones who created them. If we’ve chosen to believe in an intentional God that designed the Earth, trees, cycle of life, pregnancy, conception, animals, etc.; how can we not embrace that every human was created intentionally and perfectly. We often quote “I’m human, never claimed to be perfect” and I always beg to differ. I’m not perfect in your eyes, but I am perfect. I was made this way. And unless you are my creator, you can choose to love me this way or not love me at all.

I’ve found that often, we love others the way we want to love them as opposed to loving them the way they desire and need to be loved. Studying, learning, and embracing the spirit and character of someone can be challenging. Loving them fully even when you aren’t a fan of “who” they are is even more challenging. Accepting people for who they are and choosing to love them as such, is a huge key to loving happily and effectively.

As a person that is constantly developing, I desire to be loved and accepted for who I am, totally and fully. I desire to be loved for my seemingly outrageous comments and my long rants about religion, social injustice, or the state of my hair. I’m learning that although I often disagree with the way my husband operates at times, I’m enticed to love him regardless because even those things I dislike make up the very essence of who he is. I can’t choose to love part of him and desire to change the other part.

We (whether intentionally or unintentionally) put parameters on love that we absolutely shouldn’t. We put parameters on what “type” of person should be loved. What actions are acceptable and what actions are not. What 8046d5c4ec043a6a8f83e49cc5eac076thought processes are standard and what thoughts are wrong. Somewhere along the way, we were taught that there was a wrong way and a right way to do life and anything outside of that, is wrong and should be condemned.

I’ll admit, I used to think that way. However, recently I realized that I do not hold the standard nor can I accurately dictate what is right or wrong when it comes to personality, preferences, and desires. I have my opinions and I know the ways in which I desire to teach my children but how can I tell another human being that they are wrong for believing in a certain religion? Or that they’re wrong for wanting a million tattoos? How do I say a person is wrong because they like a different style of music? Furthermore, how do I desire to be loved for who I am while deciding not to love another fully simply because I don’t agree or care for their way of life?

We can focus so closely on our differences that we lose sight of the reality that differences are what bless us. Different cultures, beliefs, ways of life, skin color, etc. those are the things that help us become. Those are the factors that make up a beautiful people. I’ve noticed that at times we love others by deciding what is best for their lives; often dictated by our own life preferences. Where do we draw the line in dictating whether a person is right or wrong based on our own perspective? How do we balance holding tight to our own beliefs while embracing the opinions and beliefs of others? How do we love others when we are sure that we dislike or even hate so many things about them? Is it possible? Are there parameters?

It’s possible. We can create parameters. We can dictate what we will and  will not tolerate. We have that right. The beauty in that, is that we can still love others without agreeing, or even engaging in an active and intimate relationship with them. I’m learning how to do that. I’m learning how to embrace. I’m learning how to give grace and love even when it makes absolutely no sense.

In a time where it appears necessary to demean those who disagree with your way of life; I implore you to open your heart and mind to the reality that we were made differently for a reason. We are each living life in our individual skin. A skin that we did not choose. I hope that you would choose to love someone who seems unlovable. Or choose to accept someone who decides they no longer believe what they used to believe. I hope that we’d all learn to see the perfection in each other instead of highlighting what we perceive to be flaws. In choosing to embrace instead of hate, I believe we’ll stumble upon a new, refreshing, and beautiful way to love.

5-mountains-to-climb-1

The Mountain Is Not Your Enemy.

We often hear from inspirational speakers that your challenges and obstacles are not your competition; you are. When going up against something scary or challenging we often consider this thing as our opponent that needs to be beaten and conquered. I’d dare to argue that those obstacles are not our competition, what if we are our own competition. Our mind, our will to continue. Our inner strength and voice  are what truly makes our breaks our successes and failures. This week I saw that first hand.

On Monday, my husband and I took advantage of the holiday by going on a family walk in my parents neighborhood. Due to adulting requirements, we had to stop our once daily walks so that we could accomplish other things; being able to revisit that tradition was a treat. We put our 11 month old daughter in a stroller and set out to walk. We walked out of our parents neighborhood and headed towards the Silver Comet Trail.

The hill leading out of my parents neighborhood is steep. Really steep. Leaving out, we’re going downhill which makes for an easy walk. However, while walking on the silver Comet Trail (which is a completely flat surface all the way) I kept thinking about the hill that I would have to climb on the way back in. Initially, I began to worry and wonder if I could make it back up that hill carrying all 7 months of my pregnancy. After about five minutes of worry, I encouraged myself to change my mindset. Instead of worrying, I began to encourage 5-mountains-to-climb-1myself. I began to say “don’t ask if you’ll be able to climb the hill, just tell yourself that you can.”

“That hill isn’t scary, it’s just something you have to do to get home”

“You can climb it.” “You will climb it.” “It’s nothing!”

About 45 minutes later, as we entered my parents neighborhood, I stopped thinking about the hill. It was no longer an issue, an opponent or a factor. It was just part of my journey home. I climbed that hill as if it was a flat surface. Looking forward the entire way and focusing on my strength. Once I began to reach the top, I heard “See, the hill is not your adversary. You are. You are the only thing you ever have to conquer.”

That stuck with me. It impacted me. Finally those inspirational speakers and quotes on Facebook began to make sense. In that moment, the hill was not my adversary. It wasn’t my enemy. It was just a hill. What I had to conquer was my mind. I had to decide whether I wasBusinessman torn between being positive or negative going to be strong or weak. Was I going to focus on my impending defeat or success? Of course, the hill is a metaphor. It was a real challenge for me but it opened my eyes to the reality of life’s challenges. The obstacles that we face don’t become our enemies. They are simply obstacles necessary on our journey to wherever we are trying to go. We are our own adversaries. The beautiful thing about that is that we can defeat our adversary by simply changing our minds. Our focus becomes our tool to success.

I know, there are very real excuses. Before we even got to the hill I was going to call my mom and tell her to pick me up so I didn’t have to climb it. I’m not ashamed, I had the thought. I instantly dismissed it. What good am I doing for myself, my mind, my spirit if I begin planning for my defeat before I even try to succeed?? Yes the excuses are real and sometimes even valid. I am 7 months pregnant. It was hard for me to walk 2 miles and climb a really steep hill. I am allowed to be tired and even request to be picked up. But i’m tired of making excuses for myself. I like how it feels to conquer my challenges. I like the reality of knowing I have the power to overcome anything in my path. The pity party days are over. The days of blaming my negative perception on circumstances are over. If we can defeat our own negative mind, we can defeat any obstacle in our path. If we can learn to encourage ourselves towards the best case scenario, we won’t flinch when presented with a challenge. The hill is not your enemy. Neither is the mountain. Nor the people around you. They are simply playing their role, whatever that role is. You have the power to control how you view them.

I don’t know what your hill is. I don’t know what your biggest battles are. I do know that when you change your mind to focus on the power of your perception above all; you’ll realize that you were your biggest obstacle all along.

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Perfection is a Myth My Dear.

This blog was birthed from a very real place. A place of hurt, disappointment, feelings of inadequacy and eventually a place of anger. For the past 9 months, my marriage has been on one of the worst roller coasters ever. A roller coaster similar to the Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. As soon as you’re up, you’re coming right back down. Holding your stomach counting down the seconds until that crazy feeling goes away. We love each other, we have promised to stay married, but it’s been a very, very crazy time.

Originally, I began this blog with a rant. Venting about a friend who told me that my husband and I used to be her example couple. Questions formed in my mind instantly. I remember thinking “well damn that’s a rude thing to say.” This conversation and a few comments that I’ve heard about Beyonce have led me to a place of slight frustration. A frustration towards the notion that married couples, even the most in love, connected, happy, soul mates somehow hold a status of perfection. As if my marriage or Beyoncé’s for that matter should be a banner strong enough to hold up the image that being chosen for life should mean ultimate, constant happiness.JoniHeart_Tasha&Xavier-339

It’s a weird medium. On one hand, I know that there are people who understand that marriage does not equal everyday happiness. I know people understand that it’s work. People know there is compromise. What I’m unsure of, is if people realize that in a commitment that holds the length of forever, you may encounter far worse situations than arguments and unhappiness. You may encounter resentment, loss, sickness, neglect, dishonesty, deceit, and even infidelity. And the reality is, none of the aforementioned situations mean that divorce is necessary or eminent. It may just mean that you have two real people, dealing with real mess, trying to make it work for life. We have a tendency to label one “sin” as more devastating than the other but the reality is, hurt is hurt, things happen; and in marriage, you can either choose to give up or choose to keep going.

Before I continue, I must clarify. Nobody hopes for disagreement and discord in marriage. No one aspires to be an adulterer. We strive, pray and hope for perfection while also acknowledging that we are only humans. We come into marriage with so much stuff; mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. Despite how hard we try, and how long we spend trying to perfect ourselves, we’re ever evolving vessels that may hurt others unintentionally.

I’ve simply decided that I don’t desire to be anyone’s example marriage….ever. My issue isn’t that people have looked to us as a great example for young black love. My issue is that being the “example”  looks like whatever mirage they’ve associated with the identity of marriage. Resemblant of the way people look to Pastors as the ultimate example to uphold the Gospel at it’s every word, without blemish; putting an unfair expectation in something as individual and unstable as marriage will leave you disappointed every time. Being a Beyoncé doesn’t guarantee the perfect life or marriage. Just as infidelity, years of arguing, dishonesty, dissatisfaction, etc. does not necessarily mean that you have a terrible marriage. It may mean you have a real one.

 I’m learning that marriage never promised me that it would be perfect. Marriage never promised me I’d be happy all the time. Marriage never promised that there wouldn’t be months or JoniHeart_Tasha&Xavier-275even years where I questioned my decision to be married. “Bad things” happening in my marriage doesn’t mean my spouse and I don’t love each other. Those things that are considered imperfections in my marriage are the very things that have made my marriage last, ironically.  They’ve pushed us to reevaluate our decision, remember why we said yes, and challenge ourselves to love each other harder and better. Those imperfections have cradled us into a position facing a very pungent mirror; showing the places where our marriage has suffered. Helping us realize that we had gotten very good at ignoring the signs, living in discontentment, and hiding transparent feelings from one another all for the sake of maintaining a sense of “perfection”.

I can honestly say that the love my husband and I  have for one another grows stronger and better as it’s tested. What we’ve been through has rendered us the ability to be more open and honest with each other. We are truly seeing what it means to love someone through the best and worst days. We have a new understanding of what love is. We’re not as quick to give up on each other when the days are rough. We simply have a new understanding of “weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning”.  The tests suck in the moment. There have been moments where we’ve both considered leaving. I’m not ashamed of that anymore. And I don’t think it labels my marriage a failure or makes us any less in love or connected. It makes us human.

The reality is, it’s fine to go into marriage and relationships with expectations. It’s fine to have agreements and make vows. It’s fine to expect to love and be loved forever. What you do have to keep in mind, is that all of your expectations, vows, and desires can be shattered by life circumstances, time, and maturity. And if that happens, you have to remember that marriage never promised you that your perception of it would be fulfilled.

If I could ever write a letter to the woman or man who desires to be married, I would say to know why you’re aspiring for marriage. Don’t aspire for marriage because you think that it’s where your happiness lies. Understand that your happiness lies wherever you create it. The Instagram pictures and snapchat clips are really cute but real life happens behind closed doors and that real life does not constitute failure. I have heard a few people say that they look to my husband and I as examples and when we aren’t doing our best, they are worried or upset. They become discouraged and I become confused. If we’re your examples because you think we should always be “happy” then we are your examples for the wrong reason. Remember that no married couple owes it to you or anyone else to be the ideal image of what Happily Ever After is “supposed” to look like.

So if you ever thought we were perfect, I’m not sorry that we aren’t. I’m sad that you ever thought we were.