Stepping Out Of The Shadows

“Babe, I don’t want to leave you behind & I’m afraid that I will”

Words from my husband’s mouth back in the days when we were just dating. Before we considered forever, we were friends who decided to give love a try. My husband was (and still is) known as the man who was always busy. He had a full schedule filled with seminary classes, speaking engagements, church position responsibilities and more. He was very desired and I, well, I wasn’t. At the time, I was working a job I hated, doing spoken word poetry every now and then, while having a very deep desire for something more. Something better.

Years later, married with children, our life together looks much different than it did the day he spoke those words. My husband is still busy. He is still desired. And he is now employed doing what he loves most. He is fulfilled in almost every area of his life and I was very resentful. After leaving my job in 2015, I began a journey to freedom and fulfillment. I wanted what my husband had. I wanted a career that would fulfill me and pay me to be fulfilled. I wanted people to call on me and recognize me for my gifts.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my discontentment with life in my birthday post. Having given birth to my second child in two years, I had been feeling exhausted and as if none of my efforts to acquire a fruitful career were producing any results. I was feeling like my husband was leaving me behind.

I became resentful.

And there were levels to it.

Every day I watched my husband leave home and go to a job he loves while I stayed home with our baby. I was taking care of a household while also hustling to make my dreams a reality. It all felt hopeless. I felt as if his life and his responsibilities were more important than mine. Never wanting to appear unsupportive, I’d say yes to my husband’s needs and obligations until I realized that I had put myself in a position of unhappiness. I seldom said yes to myself. For many months I would get upset when he had an engagement. I yielded to his responsibilities for his job or ministry because well, he is the man and he makes majority of the money. I love him and he should get what he wants.

One day, one of my good friends helped me realize that I had to stop looking at him and look at myself. I had to ask myself why I was unhappy and I had to remind myself that I have control. I could simply say what I wanted instead of being upset that my husband was good at advocating for himself. With a little help from my counselor, I began to learn to advocate for myself. Instead of suppressing my desires, both small and large, I began to express them to my husband, communicating my need for compromise.

“Through compromise, came freedom.

Sitting in my husband’s shadow crippled me. I felt as if I was powerless. The more I said yes to myself, the more free I felt. The more empowered I became. The more I took risks and stepped outside of my comfort zone.

But there were levels to it.

While I was experiencing freedom through compromise and saying yes, there was still anger concerning my desire for a substantial career. A few weeks ago, while watching my husband preach at Oasis Church in Lithonia, I heard the Lord ask me, “What if you’re supposed to be supporting your husband right now?”

I knew exactly what He was saying to me. Right now, instead of being resentful that my “career” hadn’t taken off, or that my husband was receiving all these requests and benefits, I needed to acknowledge and embrace this season of my life. Right now, I’m supposed to be supporting him by taking care of the house, taking care of our kids when he’s away, while also hustling and doing my freelance entrepreneur thing on the side.

I’ve always been the type of woman who prides herself on her intellect and abilities. For the last year or two, I’ve neglected to acknowledge that all that I do requires just that, skill and intellect. I’ve neglected to appreciate the beauty of where I am.

God is showing me that for right now, this is where I belong. This is where I belong and I’m good at it. And I realized that I would love where I was if only I would embrace it.

I finally understand the beauty of timing.

We could probably all agree that timing plays a role in almost everything we do. I’ve always viewed first as best. I thought that because my husband’s career was taking off first, he was better. He was more important. I’ve wanted things to come in MY timing. Most of us do. We want what we want, when we want it. Except, we don’t know enough about the way things work to properly dictate timing in a way that would actually satisfy us.

For example, if it had been up to me, I probably would have never intentionally tried to have children. I knew that children change your life. I knew that pregnancy and childbirth weren’t the most enjoyable experiences on earth and I was willing to push those things off for as long as I could. However, God’s timing was that I have two kids, back to back, by age 27. I have no idea why this timing was best. But I’m confident that in a few years, I’ll have a much better understanding and I’ll be so grateful that things worked out the way they did. When you’re following God’s will for your life, His timing is just perfect. No matter how much we fuss and fight, it just is.

I finally understand the truth about greatness.

My perception of greatness meant career, money and nice things. Well. What my husband helped me realize is that greatness does not only apply to career. Greatness is a word that covers a broad spectrum of things. He and our great friend, Kerrione, reminded me that I’m a great wife and mother. I beast when it comes to taking care of my household. I’ve maintained a blog for over four years. I’m a poet who gets requested to speak. I have an organization called Life on Top and so on and so forth. I’m great.

“The timing of someone’s greatness does not determine their level of greatness.”

We will all meet our desired places when it’s time. The details of our lives all fit together like a great puzzle and if we could just acknowledge our piece in it, instead of trying to fit ourselves in a space not designed for us, life would be better.

From this day forward, I no longer feel as if I’m standing in the shadow of my spouse. I’m standing next to him. As his help. He’s standing next to me as mine. We work together to make life better and I’m finally able to recognize the greatness in myself and the beauty of my own life. I’ve stepped out of the shadow of my husband by simply realizing that he was never the problem. I’ve realized embracing where I am and recognizing who I am has killed my resentment and strengthened my love for life. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

The HealthCare Bullies


It was about 6:45pm when I held my baby to my chest to feed him. His body felt much warmer than normal, which prompted me to take his temperature. After three different readings, the temp 101.4 triggered my mommy instincts. I needed to take him to the hospital. I asked my husband to pack his diaper bag while I calmed my worried thoughts. At only 5 weeks old, my baby was experiencing discomfort and it was breaking my heart. We pulled into the children’s hospital around 7:25 pm and sat in the waiting room.

As he rested quietly, I opened my phone to begin writing about my feelings. The life of a wife and mother of two was taxing. It was beginning to wear on me emotionally, physically — pretty much every -ally possible. I was beyond tired and fatigued due to little sleep the night before but I was hopeful. I was looking forward to getting a break on Friday. My mother in law had promised to take off work in order to watch the baby for me. I had been planning that day for at least a week.

Eight o’clock rolled around and I heard our number called.

 

Within five minutes, my concern deepened. My sons temperature was 104. I remained calm and hopeful that he would be fine. We were taken to a room and waited for our nurse. Vitals were taken and he was given a Tylenol suppository for his fever.

Moments later (or maybe an hour, time has become a blur) the doctor came in. A middle aged black woman with a cute curly fro. She explained they would like to draw blood and do a catheter to test his urine for infection. I was familiar with the process because my daughter needed the same treatment when she was 6 months old.

The doctor also briefly mentioned something about needing to do a spinal tap if something something something. I don’t remember. I might have tuned out a little.img_0545

When they came to do the catheter and draw blood, I had to step out of the room to talk to my husband. I can handle the crying on a regular day, but after taking care of a crying baby all day, I absolutely couldn’t take seeing him go through so much probing.

It was over within 15 minutes and for the next hour, I held my baby in my arms as I sat on the bed and watched Queen Sugar. The resident Dr, who was completing her residency, came back and said his urine returned abnormal and he may have an infection. Because of this, they needed to do a spinal tap to test the fluid in his back.

This is where the night got interesting.

I expressed that I wasn’t comfortable with a spinal tap. Her reaction was that of surprise and expressed she would go and get the other doctor. At this point we had been at the hospital for about 3 hours. After a conversation with my mom and more waiting, I told the nurse to bring me our discharge papers and I would take him to his doctor in the morning. She informed me I’d have to sign papers indicating I’m refusing the recommended care. I acknowledged and told her I was ready to go.

Within what seemed like seconds, the two doctors came rushing into the room almost in a panic.Curly Fro doctor had a concerned look on her face.

“Hey, I thought we talked about this?” She said it while holding her arms open like we were lovers about to quarrel about her going out on a Friday night.

“We did. I’m not comfortable with it.”

“Well, let’s keep talking about it”

I listened as she explained this was the best thing for my child and the best method going forward. I listened as she explained how the spinal tap works as she simultaneously drew a diagram on the fitted bed sheet in front of me. I listened as she told me that this could literally be the difference between life and death.

Then I started responding. “I’m not comfortable with the spinal tap. Is there another option?”

She responded, informing me (for about the 7th time) that in babies as young as 5 months old, a 104 fever moves doctors to test every fluid in their body to rule out meningitis. Having had a friend experience meningitis, I knew first hand that it wasn’t anything to mess with. Even still, I wanted to explore any other possible methods of treating my baby before we went straight to sticking a needle in his tiny back.

That is when she traveled to the dirtier art of convincing — manipulation:

There’s definitely bacteria in his urine. His body is fighting an infection”

“So you’re just ok with fluid and bacteria swimming around your baby’s head?”

“What am I not explaining to you? What don’t you understand?”

“Why wouldn’t you want to make the best decision for your child?”

I realized I had a few choices. I could have begun cursing at her. Telling her to leave me alone and give me my damn discharge papers so I could take my son to the Doctor in the morning and get a second opinion (which I did say, without the rude tone and curse words). I reasoned that instead of meeting her with belligerence, I would use intelligence. I’d speak with a firm yet educated tone. Cuz ain’t nobody bout to be telling me what decisions I need to make for  my own child.

I responded.

“I’m pretty sure there isn’t fluid and bacteria swimming around my baby’s head”

“I understand everything you’re saying. I just don’t agree with your opinion.”

“You being a doctor doesn’t mean you get to decide whether or not my decisions are best for MY child. He’s mine.”

Over the course of forty five minutes, Curly Fro Doctor left and came back several times to see if I’d changed my mind. In between her absences, I had conversations with my husband and mother. They both agreed that we should come home. One of the times she returned, she presented me with two options.

Option A: Get the spinal tap and stay for two days while the baby received antibiotics via an IV.

or

Option B: Not get the spinal tap and stay for 10 days while he received antibiotics via an IV because at that point they’d have to treat him as if he had meningitis.

I told her, I choose Option C: Going home.

She said, “No, you’re not going home.”

We went back and forth once again. Me telling her I’d sign paperwork agreeing that I refused care and her saying she couldn’t let me do that because it would endanger her license. She then educated me on the Terrell Peterson Act, which states  “that a physician may retain temporary protective custody of a child without a court order and without parental consent if the child’s life or health is in imminent danger…”

Basically, she told me she would be taking custody of my child if I continued to refuse her recommended care.

I asked questions.

“Is there another way to give him the antibiotics aside from an IV?”

“This is the best way” was her answer

“Is there any other way?”

“This is the best treatment.”

“You aren’t answering my question.”

“What’s your question?”

What? What’s my question? Ok. Now you playin’

Yet and still, I repeated myself.

“Is this the only way for my child to get antibiotics”

“He needs to get the antibiotics via an IV. It’s the best way.” This was her final answer obviously.

“Ok. So your answer is yes? IV is the only way?”

She hesitated, then replied “yes.”

You’re lying, I thought, But OK.

We went back and forth. She kept using scare tactics and talking her shit. I told her I wasn’t doing it.She told me, she had to get her social worker and social services involved.It was now 2 am.I was exhausted. And pissed.The social worker came and asked how she could help. I told her I didn’t know.She basically repeated what Curly Fro Doctor said. A few times.She added in a story about how her son had to get a spinal tap.Thanks for sharing. Still not comfortable.

By this time X was on the phone listening. After threats to involve DFCS and take custody, X and I decided to just let them do the spinal tap. It was now 3:00 am and I was delirious and overwhelmed.

Social Worker left and I began expressing my anger to X. Then I realized, he isn’t the one who needed to hear it so I called Social Worker back in. I told her I felt bullied into making a decision. Because I did. I felt as if I was treated as if I don’t have the capacity to know what’s best for my child.I asked her what would happen if I put my son in his car seat and walked out.

“We wouldn’t let you.”

“What you mean you wouldn’t let me? You’d stand in front of me to stop me?”

“We wouldn’t let you leave.”

The conversation wasn’t going anywhere so I dismissed her, respectfully. I was still upset, but we had made a decision to go forward with it.

They did the stuff. All of it. At this point I was extremely exhausted and emotional. I needed a break, and I didn’t see one in sight. I was alone. My baby had been crying from being poked and injected. I was weary. I was coming to terms with the reality that the next two days would be spent in a hospital. All of this + hearing my baby cry continuously, evoked tears. I cried. Hard. Then I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I had now been awake for almost 24 hours. Drained. My crying became uncontrollable. And no one cared. No one came to my aid. Not even Social Worker.

It was then that I cursed this system. The one that forces you to do what they feel is best. Using manipulation and scare tactics. Making me feel as if I’m too uneducated to make rational decisions for my child. Threatening me with DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services). As if somehow my disagreement with them made me an unfit mother.

Another resident Doctor came in and stared at me as I gasped for air and tried to gain control of myself. A short, white, bald young dude.

He finally spoke “Whats wrong?”

“I’m just tired” is all I could get out.

“Well. Your kid’s gonna be fine.”

My kid’s gonna be fine. Thanks. Thanks for your compassion. Thanks for your comfort, Short Bald Resident.

“Get out of my face” is what I wanted to say but like I mentioned, I could barely breathe let alone talk.

Finally (because he needed me to answer questions) he coached me through taking deep breaths. I took about 10 deep, intentional breaths before I was able to gain control and return to a calm state.

By 4:30 am, we had been admitted into a room and X was packing things to bring to me. He had called our kids’ amazing god parents to stay at the house with our daughter so that he could come keep me company. At this point, I needed someone. I needed a hug, or just a familiar, loving face. He was exactly that for me when he showed up at 5:30am. We both laid together on the small twin couch thing in the room and drifted off to sleep for an hour.

So this is what I’ll say. Through this experience and the experience of having two kids, I’ve learned that healthcare is a tricky business. In some places, they’ll convince you that you need a procedure or even medication simply because they think so. Or because it’s standard practice. They’ll give you Pitocin (Pitocin is used to produce contractions during the third stage of labor, and control bleeding after childbirth.) during childbirth even though you don’t need it. They’ll ignore your requests because well, you don’t know anything. They’re medically trained and you aren’t. This experience with Curly Fro Doctor frustrated me to say the least. To be told over and over that my decision for my own child was inadequate. To experience manipulation and scare tactics for the purpose of control. To be threatened with the taking of my child. It’s enough to make me reconsider coming into a hospital ever again.

So here’s the update. Curly fro doctor lied to me when she said my baby definitely had an infection in his urine. My son apparently never  had a UTI or any bacteria in his urine. The test for bacteria that causes meningitis came back negative as well. Most likely, he had a viral infection…a cold. Just as I suspected. So the irony here, is that I actually did know what was best for my child. I actually was making the right decision for him. Now, he has diarrhea from the antibiotics and several band-aids from where he was given shots and the spinal tap.

While this experience has been quite traumatic and stressful, I’ve learned to do my research. To express myself even when it means it causes conflict. To ask for my options and not just accept what I’m being told. To stand on what I truly believe in. And to have someone with me if for no other reason than to comfort me when I’m crying hysterically in triage because I’m overwhelmed by Curly Fro Doctor and the health care bullies.

6 Weeks In

 

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Sitting in the waiting room of a children’s hospital, the vibrant colors of the walls kept me alert. I realized this is going to be my life for the next 18 years. Waiting rooms and appointments. Sleepless nights and a constant state of concern for the well being of my children.  Babies are beautiful. Then they’re cute. Then, you’re struggling not to pop them in the mouth when they’ve defied your orders with a profound and high pitched “no”.

It took me a month to realize I hadn’t written about the experience of being a mom of two. Late nights and early mornings fuel my days of feedings, pumping and 2 minute showers. Before I’m aware, it’s time to cook dinner, give baths and start all over again. Determined to keep myself afloat, I’ve committed to exercise three times a week, worship & meditation, writing, hair appointments and an occasional pedicure. Time alone with my husband comes in waves and many times I’m forced to hold my eyes open in order to finish watching a show with him. I’m unsure at what level my body is actually functioning as there are days I forget to eat.

malik-brandon-81But it’s not all bad. While trying to maintain a semblance of positive body image and navigating hormones, I’m kept alive by my determination to stay above water. I can’t drown in pity because God needs me to be a shepherd to a home of kings and a sassy queen. My purpose is still alive within me and joy is steadily calling my name.

Motherhood has challenged me to put a new face to freedom. Encouraged me not to label my situation as life ending but instead inspiring. On days when I feel like “this is bullshit” I’m inspired to find the beauty. And the days where I think “this is beautiful” I’m inspired to bask in the moment. Life is busy. Some days unbearable. But I make it through just like most people — reminding myself that to everything there is a season.

Now more than ever, I’m charged to obey my hearts desires and follow the leading of my spirit. While I adore my husband and children, I’m in love with my dreams and my fulfillment. I used to think that having kids would stop me from finding joy and independence but I realize now that I control my own destiny. I control my decisions and my thoughts. I control my actions. I decide what life will look like; my circumstances don’t dictate my future.

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In her book Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes wrote about the way mothers are described and celebrated. She says

” I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much and how often women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible.When I really think about it, I realize the culprit is the language generally used to praise women. Especially mothers.

She sacrificed everything for her children…she never thought about herself… she gave up everything for us…she worked tirelessly to make sure we had what we needed. She stood in the shadows, she was the wind beneath our wings.”

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Brooklyn, 15 Months, Not Sure When She Got So Big

It wasn’t until I had a child that I realized how easy it is to be so engrossed in maintaining the lives of others that you lose control of your own. I’m extremely committed to valuing myself as much as I value those around me. My children and husband are a priority but they do not come before self love and my inner health. That may sound crazy to some people. I’m fine with that. I’ve learned in my short 15 months of motherhood that no one around me is safe or loved when I myself do not feel safe or loved. I’m emotionally unstable when I haven’t gotten any sleep or a break away from my home life.

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Hubby & Baby Malik

Being a mother of two has shown me my strength. It’s also shown me what does and does not really matter. Laundry matters…but when I have to choose between doing laundry and eating; I’m choosing nourishment (most times). As much as I love a clean home, the living room may not get cleaned. Brooklyn’s toys may be scattered around the room for a few days simply because I need to conserve my energy for other things; like writing or dancing in the mirror for thirty minutes. Because that matters too.

The most beautiful part of all of this has to be the smile on my daughter’s face when I go to pick her up from daycare. Or watching both of my babies grow and develop literally from one day to the next. Trying to interpret Brooklyn’s  new words as I also navigate learning  Malik’s preferences. Getting to know a person is one of the most beautiful processes I’ve experienced. I think it’s why we love relationships so much. And just as I did with my husband, I’m learning these little people that God has literally put into my life. Learning them and nurturing them is hard and very tiring but so rewarding. It literally brings me joy to be a part of their existence.

Lastly, I’ve come to appreciate the value of family and support. Without my mother’s, grandmother, sister in law and so many friends, my husband and I would not be able to function. I am a strong believer in “It takes a village”; so much so that when we’re able, I plan to hire a nanny and cook and laundry person and whoever else I need to help make this whole parenting thing a little easier. Judge me if you like, I don’t care. I’ll be over here living the good life with my village; dancing in the mirror, writing and kicking my feet up.

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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.