In Marriage, How Free is Too Free?

Today, My husband wrote a song about one of his ex crushes. A girl whose name he’s mentioned about fifty times since we’ve met. A girl that he often dreams about and thinks about when he has those “what if” moments. After writing the song, he called me and asked how I felt about it. He wanted to make sure I didn’t feel disrespected or hurt. I didn’t. I celebrated his ability to be authentic and real and I was excited that he was so transparent in his artistry.

I’ve asked myself, “How free is too free?” when it comes to honesty in marriage and relationships.  Depending on who you ask, you may be told not to tell your spouse or significant other everything. You may be told that some things are better left unsaid. I won’t debate one way or the other, but I will say that complete and total freedom in my marriage has been such a beautiful thing.

When a girl walks by with a big butt and he comments, I look and we laugh together. When I find a man attractive, I tell him immediately and we have a conversation about it. If I feel hurt or neglected, I tell him. If he has a moment where he feels himself attracted to another woman, he tells me. Why? Because this creates intimacy in our marriage and eliminates the opportunity for distance to be created between us.

By knowing what’s going on, we can address the issues head on before anything crazy happens and move forward stronger and better. We recognize and allow the humanity in each other and when able, we give grace. Sometimes, it takes me days to share how I’m feeling. Some days, he’s afraid to tell me things because of how I might react. However, we’ve found a way to love each other honestly and freely in a way that gives us a new sense of friendship and closeness.

It hasn’t always been this way and it isn’t always easy. I don’t always like what he has to say and vice versa. The monique-says-her-open-marriage-is-about-honestybeauty is that we are able to share our hearts with each other and know that afterwards, we’ll love each other just as much if not more than before.

Weeks ago, the comedian Monique and her husband  were on the show ‘Preachers’ and there was quite an uproar about her and her husbands decision to have an open marriage. They’ve both agreed to allow each other to have sexual encounters with other people. After I watched the episode, I had a smirk on my face. I admired their ability to be open and honest with each other in the way that satisfies their relationship. I’ve come to the place where I believe that marriage should be done in the way that satisfies and benefits the two people within it.

Many reference the Bible, tradition, God and their own convictions when dictating how marriage should be but I’m not convinced that there is only ONE way to do marriage right. I believe there are principles, tools, and different ideals that can help many marriages survive. For the Brandon’s, honesty and transparency have been the key to helping us love our marriage and feel free to be ourselves.

It may not work for everyone. Complete and total honesty may not be what you desire for your marriage or relationship. But I remember a time in our marriage where we were living with so many lies between us that it almost destroyed us. We’re better now. So much better. More in love, more attracted, happier, and closer.. Our hearts consider one another. I see him as my partner and not my enemy even when he hurts me. I share my desires with him even when he disagrees or decides he can’t cooperate. At least he knows them. At least we know each other. It removes the stringent case that marriage is often packaged in and allows our relationship the ability to be fun and exciting. Honest. Loving. Free.

And I mean free free. Free to the point of discomfort and vulnerability. The inner workings of your inner thoughts, type free. Allowing someone to see the ugly parts of you, type free. The parts that you desire to hide. Because can someone truly love you if you only give them what they desire to hear and see of you?

But here’s the thing. Both parties must participate. Both parties must be willing to commit to honesty and transparency. And both parties must be willing to be reasonable and understanding even when hearing something they may not want to hear. It’s imperative that as much as I am honest, I am just as accepting. I must be willing to bear the hard news when my husband has a need to be honest with me. I must be his support and his unconditional love when he needs a heart to accept him. It may not be easy to begin this journey, but I promise it’s worth a try. I have never felt so free in a relationship as I do in my marriage.

If nothing else, I find comfort in knowing that just as I am, my husband is human. I love knowing that I’m not alone in my thoughts. I’m not alone in my ratchet humanity. I am not alone. My husband and I are in this together.

My Husband Was My Enemy

My husband was my enemy. Every word he said was laced with hatred with the intent to hurt me. I saw him as a competitor that I needed to beat. Someone that I needed to win against. Every time he moved in a way that I didn’t understand, I questioned his loyalty.

I was convinced that I needed to confide in someone else so that I wasn’t alone. I needed someone who could see things from my perspective and make me feel good about myself and my actions.For months, resentment, anger, and feelings of discontent slowly grew into a full out war. We began to forget that we were in a covenant partnership and instead, we embodied the mindset that we were somehow against each other. Our actions began to reflect that of two people who were being forced to live together.

As I began to grow and change, he was losing a grasp on understanding who I was. As my thoughts and beliefs about life changed, so did his recognition of his wife. He didn’t know me anymore. And I didn’t feel accepted. I felt alone. Thus, I felt like I had to protect myself from his oppression. No matter what he said to me, I would twist his words to be malicious. NO matter what he did, if i didn’t agree, I assumed he was purposely trying to hurt me or anger me. I fought him in several ways while silently confiding in others, some who were true allies and others who were there for the drama. The outside world now had an inside look into my crazy marriage and I had yet to take responsibility for any of it.

Now, many months later, I look back on those days and I’m appalled that I could have ever thought my husband and I were on opposing teams. I took everything that he said, and I analyzed it. I found hatred in his well meaning constructive criticism. I was so hurt by the state of our marriage that I took misunderstanding to mean opposition. Instead of self evaluating, I took the role of the victim and sought pity from others as if I was a slave in the dungeon of an evil master.

I look back and realize, my husband always loved me. We may have had times of misunderstanding but he was never my enemy. He was never “the problem” to be handled; he was simply another player in this crazy marriage game and we had to learn how to work together through this season of our lives. I thought he had turned his back on me. I thought that his inability to relate meant that he was no longer on my side and that was not the truth. He was simply trying to navigate our marriage, just as I was. I had to take responsibility for the way I was making him feel whether or not I had intended to hurt him.

In most cases, your spouse is not your enemy. I believe if you’re arguing, upset, and not connecting there is a reason; and that reason involves BOTH of you. It doesn’t matter if one is in the “wrong” because at the end of the day, there are two of you in a relationship. You both have to be willing to assess your actions and beliefs if for no other reason than to ensure that you are doing all that you can to make it work. I commend my husband everyday. Because when I was irrational, he still loved me. He had his moments, but he was always willing to actively love me through our mess and show me that he was my partner, my lover and my friend.

His love was able to break the mindset that he was ever  my enemy. His true love (and my willingness to accept it) permeated through both of our hearts to create a new standard and aroma in our marriage. I am truly appalled that I ever saw him as an enemy. He is my perfect partner and we’re so much better when we see each other as two people on the same team, trying to figure out the game of marriage. It’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not to be given up on even in its worst moments. It’s to be navigated, fought through, and recognized as a journey to tread through together.

 

We Need Our Tears

I just cried in the shower for about 20 minutes. And I honestly don’t think I could tell you why. It just happened. And it wouldn’t stop. Why am I sharing this? Because someone else has cried in their shower. Or in their bed. Or car. And I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m with you. God is with you, whether you believe in God or not. We are not alone even when we’re the most alone we’ve ever been.

blue-tearWhile crying, I had an interesting thought. I believe our tears are necessary. We have tear ducts, the ability to cry, and emotion that evokes those tears. Our bodies are intentionally made. Thus tears and the expression of them must be necessary. For what? I don’t know. I feel a little better though. So maybe tears are the expression of emotions that we aren’t able to articulate. Feelings we aren’t able to label yet we need to eject from our system. Maybe, we need to be sad, if even for a moment, so that we can cleanse ourselves and be happy. Or maybe happiness isn’t the goal. Maybe wholeness is.
Like the movie Inside Out concluded, we have to be sad at times in order to get back to being happy. Tears are necessary. Even when it’s ugly and uncomfortable. Crying profusely for “no reason” is weird. But…obviously my body needed to express something I was unable to express verbally.

Insecurity vs. Inspiration

Jealous.

jeal·ous

ˈjeləs/
adjective
feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
This was the exact feeling I had a few weeks ago after meeting a 22 year old author who is booked to travel and speak to youth this summer. Here she was, reminding me of my own dreams yet I was not living them and she was. I must admit. I was jealous for about five minutes. Next came regret, why didn’t I have the belief and drive to pursue my dreams at 22? Why had I waited so many years to become serious about myself? Then out of nowhere, the holy spirit reminded me of my truth. Reminded me that I need not be jealous, regretful or insecure; I need be inspired.
 Weeks later, I found myself in a similar position. Except this time, I was having to fight insecurity in a new way. I was asked to complete a project . The expectations relayed to me sent me into doubt and intimidation. Was I good enough to complete the task? Could I do it? What If the client wasn’t satisfied? Maybe I should say no. Thank God, I chose inspiration and thus my insecurity subsided. I decided to be inspired by my fears instead of being led by them. I decided to enjoy the process of challenging my own creativity as opposed to viewing myself as unworthy of the opportunity. I chose to believe in myself. In doing so, I not only satisfied the client, I learned so much about myself. I learned that I’m actually a beast when I choose to be. I learned that I am smarter than I thought. I learned that when you choose inspiration over insecurity, life takes on new shape.
Surprisingly, less than a week later, that same client approached me with yet another project. A project more intimidating than the first because this project was exactly in line with my dreams. I would be doing exactly what I’ve always dreamt of and that scared me. I was apprehensive. Could I choose inspiration again? Is this really happening? 77c9255d4d8a40af414a7e43401e5f6bWhat if I fail? Will I have to reconsider my dreams? I thought about the moment I had with the 22 year old girl. I thought about the moments I’d had with God prior begging and pleading for him to send me a life changing opportunity. I realized that over the last six months, I had been looking for this.How crazy would I be to turn around
and decline simply because I was afraid of something new? It was in that moment that I realized, I can’t chase my dreams if I’m afraid of them. If every opportunity that comes, intimidates me to the point where I say no, I’ll never find myself in the midst of my dream life, basking in the ambiance of my success. New opportunities are scary. Choosing to move forward towards them is even scarier. But choosing to sit in the same place and convince yourself that you are not ready or worthy simply because you’re afraid is just …well, dumb. I understand the apprehension. I understand the fear. I understand the questions. I’ve experienced them all in a short period of time. I also have experienced the adrenaline of choosing to be great and succeeding.
It’s all in your decisions. You can try and fail or not try at all but you’re selling yourself short when you instantly decide that you aren’t good enough to fulfill your dreams. You’re good enough. Your dream job/opportunity came to you and said so. Don’t be afraid of your dreams, conquer them. Chase them. Embrace the process and choose inspiration over insecurity.

Self-Sabotaging When Pain Doesn’t Go Away…

“When you’re broken to a certain extent, you tend to sabotage relationships” – Sherri Lewis

They say hurt people, hurt people. I say hurt people, hurt themselves. Weeks ago, I was discussing with friends how  there are certain people who sabotage their relationships simply because they’re hurt. It’s a lifestyle that I know all too well. Often, when we feel hurt or misunderstood by our friends or family, we tend to push them away or find reasons to eliminate them from our lives. Making excuses for our actions by validating our feelings of hurt and betrayal.

The truth is, it hurts to love sometimes. People will hurt you, whether intentionally or unintentionally; they’re human. How we choose to respond is imperative to our well-being and our inner health. We may believe that pushing others away will somehow heal us from our pain; but the reality is that pushing others away will only lead to isolation and unresolved hurt. Hurt that builds up within us, corroding our joy while others will most likely live unknowing of our despair. Leaving us alone and wounded.

I’ve felt this way. I’ve felt unloved by friends and family. I’ve felt neglected and mistreated. And I’ve pushed people away because of it. Over the years, I created a wall and became extremely guarded, only letting people experience a surface version of myself.

Only if and when others are persistent in their desire to know more of me are they able to experience my vulnerability. It’s an attribute I’ve worked to change but one that I still wrestle with daily. From one self-sabotaging human to another, DON’T SHUT DOWN! Don’t walk away. Don’t let pain regress you. There are people who love you. People who care, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You are still worthy of love. Don’t self-sabotage because it seems like the better option. Yes, it hurts to love people sometimes. And dealing with that pain isn’t always easy. It seems unnecessary. However, shutting down and pushing people away IS NOT THE BEST ANSWER.

I once watched a sermon about pain that doesn’t go away. In the sermon, Tyreke Wesley said “we manage pain best, when we let God in our pain so that He can care for you and others through it.” One of the only and greatest sermons I’ve ever heard about pain. Something so real.

Disappointment, unmet expectations, rejection can all lead to an inexplicable pain. A pain that moves us to withdraw and keep to ourselves. But there is no redemption inside of our shell. There is no love there. Isolation does not cure the desire for love and relationship. As much as it hurts, as crazy as it seems, as hard as it is, you have to keep going. Keep loving people and allowing them in.selfsabotageyoursuccess

Contrarily, sometimes self-sabotage can also occur when we consistently let the wrong people in. Choosing new and unstable relationships to invest in all because we are hoping they’ll be different. Choosing to go back to relationships that have proven to be unhealthy for us. I understand the difficulty. At times, when we’re hurt, it can be challenging to acknowledge who to let in and who to keep out; so we just keep everyone out. Over time, you’ll learn who really
loves you. And at times, when those that really love you, hurt you, it feels worse than when a stranger does it. When that person that you’ve believed in, confided in, loved on and trusted does something to hurt you, it feels like the entire world turned their back on you. You begin to regret your decision to trust. You begin to move away from them and towards isolation or even back to unstable relationships.

Let God into your pain. Allow Him to guide you through the process of reconciliation and self love. Forgive those that hurt you. Love yourself enough to tell them when they’ve hurt you. Acknowledge their humanity and then acknowledge your own. Work to help them recognize how you desire to be loved. Love yourself enough to acknowledge that you’re in pain; that you need help. Acknowledge that you need love from others. Do away with passive aggressiveness sand embrace bold, loving communication. Pain doesn’t die in avoidance. It often thrives in dark places.

Hurt people do hurt people; but hurt people often hurt themselves the most. Stop self-sabotaging. Stop ending healthy relationships because you were hurt. Express. Share. Love. It may hurt in the beginning, but good relationships are worth keeping. Love yourself enough to be loved by those who truly do love you.

 

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.