Managing the Middle

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Photo courtesy of Dear Frances.com

If you’ve ever lived on a  super cute little side street,  with porches and front yards that make you swoon, the occasional barking dog, and trees that beg you to step up your multi tasking game of looking up and watching where you walk, book ended by two main thoroughfares or even one main thoroughfare, you can relate. I live on said super cute little side street.  In order to make it just about anywhere- work, the gym, the grocery store, Target, or Starbucks, I have to cross a big ol’ busy street.

Now, there’s a method to crossing at the end of my street which intersects smack in the middle of the busy street.  First, the traffic lights at one end of the busy street has to be red and at the other, they need to be green.  Then, I have to make it to the middle of the street before it narrows into turn lanes. If can make it to the middle, getting all the way across the street is typically easy peasy. Make it to the middle then make it all the way to my final destination, which depending on the day could be to work or to get a tall soy green tea latte.

I’m learning in this season of my life, it’s important to get to the middle but not to get stuck. The middle is not the final destination, just a place to pause, so I can strategically get where I am trying to go. It’s important to start. To make the lists, to apply, to purge, to let go, to shift. It’s necessary to take the class, download the app,  meet with the financial adviser, unsubscribe from your favorite shops so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on “a great deal” every time an email comes through,  do your homework on the best counselors in the area, etc.

It’s even more important to accomplish work through the list and get stuff done, submit the application, attend the class, use the app, stick with the budget prescribed by your financial advisor and use that budget to empower you to not re-subscribe to your favorite shops for “a great deal”,  and complete an intake with the counseling practice you think will best meet your needs.

But what’ most important, is to make it all the way across, to get to the other side, journey on to our final destination.

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Photo courtesy of By Tezza.com

Can you imagine if all I ever did was get to the end of my sweet little side street, make it safely to the middle and stayed in the middle? Can you imagine if I just stayed there? If i never paid attention to the changing lights at either end of the busy street that created the conditions for me to finish the process I started? If I ignored the slowed cars, waving hands, and usually smiling faces that signaled “Danger is not present, be cautious, but go for it, cross the street, continue your journey, get to your destination”? Someone would probably call the police and say “There is a woman who is just standing in middle of the street. While she’s not disrupting traffic per se, she may end up getting hurt or causing someone else to get hurt.”

It sounds pretty ridiculous, right?

Yet, we do this. We make it to the middle and we hang out there. We are somewhere between grateful, surprised, excited that we started and made it past the first part of the journey to the middle. We didn’t get hit, no broken bones, no EMT coming to our aid. But then, we stay in the middle. We stay  longer than necessary, ultimately foregoing  our destinies.

We settle for the job because it pays the bills and provides insurance.  Never mind that it’s not even close to the work we’ve dreamed of doing or went to get a graduate degree for.  We stay with the partner because they’re not that bad really. They pick you up from work in your car. They help out with the kids (or your kids, depending on their mood)  as long as it’s not when the game is on, they aren’t tired, there’s another happy hour, or overtime isn’t being offered. We don’t apply to the ivy league school because college is college and if you got a scholarship to Princeton you can surely get one to the state school.  Slim thick is the new black, so no need to really go to the doctor about the weight we’ve put on that we know is a result of our job, because we’re not leaving the paycheck or the comfort of being there at what was supposed to be two years tuned seven  or the half priced appetizers where we go on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday after work. We’re not going on a date after the divorce. In the middle “taking time” is acceptable. So we take six years and we look forward to year seven, even though the marriage ended because the abuse needed to end before someone’s life did.  We don’t let anyone get too close romantically because they may see the scars from when we used to cut or notice we tense up at their touch because of the attempted sexual assault, so we text a lot, talk a lot, and after the third date we find the reason to cancel date four, block their number, and try a new dating app. And we’re definitely not leaving the church we’ve been going to since we were four.  They depend on us to lead the small group bible study at our home, set up and tear down for the events, step in as second soprano if sister Angela does have to go visit her poor sick momma in Kentucky. It’s familiar. It’s manageable. We haven’t been hit.  It feels safe. The middle of that big ol street can be safe, but only temporarily.

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Photo courtesy of Because It’s Amazing Tumblr.com

The same way my chances of being hurt or causing hurt the longer I hang out in the middle of the street as opposed to finishing the process of actually crossing the street, we increase our chances of self harm and harming others the longer we linger in the middle of our journeys toward our purpose.  The longer I stay in the middle of the road, the longer I expose myself to the driver who is not paying attention to me and hits me, or swerves to avoid me at the last minute and hits someone else or something.

When we don’t figure out how to strategically navigate our middle or look for others who signal it’s safe to keep on keeping on, we rob ourselves of abundant lives;   lives that were meant to also help others on their journeys. We aren’t the best employees, partners, parents, entrepreneurs, daughters, friends, cousins, artists, leaders, versions of ourselves we were created to be.  We cheat our partners, children, friends, community members, patients, clients, and students-  offering them a hologram of us.  And, we know this.  Our bodies know this. We heap on unhealthy habits that typically lead to some type malady. We say we’re tired, feel stuck, just need a vacation, but it’s more than that. It’s the cost of settling for an illusion of safety. The middle offers an illusion of safety.  It offers the promise of almost. Let’s us take pride in starting, but it deters us from moving forward, reaching, completing, thriving, living- if we’re not mindful to manage the middle.

I’ve spent the last few years in the middle.  At first, it was exhilarating to make it to the middle. To observe enough to know when it was safe to make the initial cross- to start. There was entering a new field of work, a nice title, solid salary, new freedoms, new people, travel, and so many experiences and opportunities. However, I’ve noticed recently that it’s time for me to finish crossing the street.  The middle has served its purpose in facilitating my journey to the other side. It’s given me the time needed to note how temporary it was and how much more I’ve still got to do in order to be who I was created, gifted, and called to be. It’s given me the time needed to note the pain that results from hanging out there too long and the living that I am missing out on just hanging between what was and what will be.

My hope for you as you are on your own journey is that you stay mindful of the middle. Use it wisely, but don’t linger, don’t get stuck.  Let it serve its purpose in your life, but don’t let it hijack your purpose or your role in someone else discovering and living out their purpose.  Pay attention to the lights, the drivers, the signals so you know when to proceed with caution, but proceed nonetheless.

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Photo courtesy of HuffPost

 

 

Help My Belief

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Photo courtesy of S. Hammeck via Pinterest.com

We had issues. Like serious issues. Like sitting in those meetings in that room with the blinds tightly drawn to perhaps protect us or maybe spare him from embarrassment, felt like marital counseling for issues that were there long before I arrived on campus only a few months prior. Marital counseling for a wedding I never had, a dress I never purchased and danced the night away in, a groom that was nor favored Idris Elba or Simon Baker.

We muddled through, the nine of us assistant deans. First meeting with the president of the university, then with HR, and then with a consultant the president hired over the course of about six months. During the time with HR we all took the Strengths Finder assessment. It was an attempt at assessing strengths as a team, where some of the conflicts we were having may stem from, and how to leverage strengths to move forward.

We gathered in a house the campus owned just behind several of the office buildings on campus. We made our way down to the basement that must have at one time been a family room. There was a kitchen area and catered treats were in abundance, around a slight corner tables had been arranged in a circle of sorts with just enough space to allow us to still enjoy the beautiful fireplace.  As we took our seats and pulled out tour sheets of paper with our top five strengths the woman from human resources smiled empathetically at us and then shared that she would be reviewing the profile of all 34 strengths, including the strengths that no one on our team had in their top 5. She started through the list alphabetically and in no time we were at belief. “Now no one on your team had belief,” she started. I looked up at a few of my colleagues, who were aware that belief was one of my top 5 strengths. “People with this strength need to be a part of things they believe in. If they don’t believe in the work they are doing, the task required of them, or the outcomes, they will have a hard time completing tasks or really being on board. The internal struggle to do what they don’t believe often becomes too much for them, “ she went on. My colleagues and I exchanged glances once more. “This person won’t last long in an organization or a job that doesn’t align with their beliefs.  They are most likely going to quit,” she stated. We started laughing. We being almost all of the assistant deans. She looked up, tilted her head to the left slightly, and asked what did she miss. “Belief is one of my strengths,” I said.  She apologized and then asked if any of what she shared resonated with me “It’s spot on I shared.” A few months later, I submitted my resignation.

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Photo courtesy of Devine Art.com

I first took the strengths finder assessment in undergraduate school as a member of our residence life team. I don’t recall my strengths other than relator. I remember that all of my strengths seemed to really fit what I was studying in college, human development and family science. When I took the assessment  with my team of assistant deans relator wasn’t in my top 5, but I as okay with that. I liked my current list of strengths, felt they made sense to me and the way I see and navigate the world, with the exception of belief. For some reason that strength didn’t seem to really resonate as much as the others, although I had a deeper appreciation for it once it was explained to me.

Yet, here I am almost three years removed from taking the assessment a second time, wrestling with belief being strength, and now I laugh at how I ever doubted or questioned the role belief plays in the way I see and navigate the world. It’s why I curated the list of guest lecturers for my campus this semester, because I believe we need to learn more about what it means to communicate effectively across cultures and partner through coalition building and community organizing.  It’s why I stepped down from a search committee and reached out to human resources when I knew inequity had been ushered in and integrity shown the door.  It’s why every couple of weeks I spend some evenings before bed writing love notes to friends and family members to be snail mailed to their doorsteps. I believe we should open more than bills and that if you don’t tell people you love them they might not know or circumstances in life may cause them to question if they are loved and I don’t want that. So I believe in sending reminders on cute stationary, sometimes designed by me and sometimes in the sweet dollar section of Target. I believe in the dollar section of Target.

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Photo courtesy of Target (2015 Ad Campaign)

Fast forward to my sitting in a different coffee table writing this post after taking a day off from work because what happened the day before violated several of my beliefs. Clearly, my beliefs matter.

I’d been taught to pray “Lord, help my unbelief.” To seek help in growing my faith and diminishing doubt. But to be honest, these days my prayers have been “Lord, help my belief.”  There’s a boldness, a conviction, a forthrightness, a serious pursuit that comes with belief. It’s strong, deep, unwavering, and rebuffs any requests to be mediocre, settle, or subtly and quietly fade to the background. It looks, it listens, it leads, and in recent years I’ve learned to appreciate it.  

Today,  I’m learning how to live it. I’m learning how to live my beliefs in every area of my life. In the way I communicate,  pray, exercise, eat, relate, steward my finances, the work I do, the dreams I dream and work towards, etc. I’m learning to live in congruence with what I know deep in my soul to be what is best for me and what I’ve been designed and fashioned for on this side of heaven.  I’m learning to question more, and not out of insecurity or defiance, but out of assessing if it jives with who I am and desire to be. Cause if it doesn’t, I reject that sucka. If it does, I take care of it, protect it, bask in it, own it, live it.

The heart of the simply lived life has always been grounded in my belief that we have choice and that when we recognize that and own it, magical things happen for us, our friends, our families, our communities.  I’ve also believed that my words, strung together, will resonate with someone who needs help with their unbelief. This week however, my hope is that these words resonate with someone who needs help with their belief. May you live well this week. May your wellness spring forth from what you believe. May what you believe be healthy, loving, and gloriously reflective of who you were created to be and the life you were crafted to live.

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Photo courtesy of Riches for Rags Tumblr.com

Listen to Your Life

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Photo courtesy of Marie Claire

I sent this lovely picture (to the left to the left) of the oh so stylish SJP to one of my close girlfriends, Serena, and said “I’d like a photo op like this please.” Her response was “I can make that for you.” I didn’t doubt that she could because she is one of the most talented creatives I know and I am beyond grateful that I get to call her friend. We continued texting, about anything and everything including the winter storm threats both of our cities were under, her asking in response to my day not being what I needed when I was going to let it go and go be the best version of myself,  and good words I heard earlier in the day from one of my favorite podcasts, Chrystal’s Chronicles with  Chrystal Evans Hurst. “Listen to your life.” I texted Serena. Her response “And what’s your life saying?”

 

Can I just say that only a real friend  responds like that. Only a real friend asks the necessary question and waits for the vulnerable, unmasked, scary to text or say out loud answer. “It’s saying there’s a lot I need to shed/let go of.” 

She called me after that text and kept doing what good friends do. She shared some things she noticed when we last got together a few weeks ago over tea but waited for a better time to speak on them. She encouraged me and shared how excited she is and has always been about my gifts, talents, and goals. Lastly, she agreed that there are still some things that I need to shed.

We ended  the call with me expressing deep hope for a snow day the next day, because what I needed almost as much as I needed to go to sleep, was to be purposeful about listening to my life. I just wanted a moment.  A sweet tea, journal, pen, bible, moment to listen to what my life was saying.

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Photo courtesy of LaBella Tumblr.com

Well blessed grown man Jesus heard my prayers. Around 6am, jut after hitting snooze for the second time (I was listening to my body) a text came through from my college saying campus was closed for the day. Hallelujah!  I tried to go back to sleep after a round of group texts with family, but only for about a half an hour. Then I was up, sipping tea, and reading the devotional I purchased for Lent. The overarching theme in the passage for the day- timing, including the time for what was. I took it as a hint to make sure I made time to listen to my my lie today about what there still was for me to shed and let go of.

I won’t lie. I didn’t immediately grab my journal from my side table, ink pen, and curl up in the chair by the window in my bedroom. Nope. I got on Pinterest, Instagram, checked personal email (it was a snow day, I was not trying to check work email), etc. I got up and enjoyed some banana chocolate chip pancakes and then made my way to the gym. Don’t worry, the snow in my part of the city was still fairly reasonable to navigate and my gym is like three- ish blocks away. Walking there would be my warm up.

In fact, there was no “sweet tea, journal, pen, bible, moment” because life isn’t a moment. It’s a series of moments. So throughout the day, throughout the moments that made up my day, I did more tuning out and more tuning in to listen to my life. I paid attention to what I was attracted to on social media. I took a 2 hour nap. I didn’t answer each call that came in and was only the initiator of a few calls that went out. I didn’t even immediately respond to each text that came across my phone screen. I chose low impact machines at the gym and didn’t watch any of the televisions playing a steady stream of political news. I was selective about how I spent my time today, tuning into the decisions to be made about upcoming travel, financial commitments, time commitments, heart string commitments, telling my entire truth to a student who emailed me from my former institution about the ways in which racism, discrimination, and inequity were pervasive on campus (and from what she shared, still is) during my tenure there.

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Photo courtesy of Q. Taelor

I’m still working through Valerie Burton’s book Successful Women Think Differently. Recently I answered a series of questions helping me understand what helped me to be at my best in my relationships, finances, career, health, and faith. When I look at my responses to those questions and think about the words of Chrystal Evans Hurst, “Listen o your life,” it was crystal clear that during my best moments, I was at my best in terms of listening to my life. My boundaries were firmer, my work aligned with my beliefs, spending wasn’t a means of coping or purchasing items to look happy in an effort to overcompensate for misery, exercising 5 times a week wasn’t something I even though twice about, and I made decisions that aligned with my beliefs and the goals I had that best allowed me to live from my strengths and on purpose. The more I listened to my life, both to what I needed and wanted, the better I was. 

I want to encourage you to start listening to your life this week. Listen to what your life is telling you. Don’t hush the whispers for rest, for connection, for exercising. Don’t roll your eyes at her voice to write more, connect face to face over coffee with a friend instead of texting, make reservations for date night with your bae to nurture your relationship. Resist putting your fingers in your ears when she says call a therapist to help you navigate the burn out, depression, anxiety, or PTSD. When she says you need to spend some time dreaming a new dream, dream on. When she says you need to assert yourself, strategically and confidently go forth. When she says draft the resignation letter, draft it on the nearest napkin if you have to. When she says you are on the run, it’s okay to ask if you running from or running to. Listen to your life. Can you hear you now? 

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Photo courtesy of Start Handing Out Stars Tumblr.com

 

 

 

Madam Know It All

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

It was #SelfcareWednesday and while part of the routine for a little over a month now has been a ballet body workout class, last week I didn’t put on the tights, pull up the hair, or put on the shoes. I needed a bubble bath, tea, and some adult coloring time. So, I did just that. I knew what I needed and this time, I made sure I got it.

 

In fact, it was the third day in a row where I managed to make sure I got what I needed. Whether it was extra sleep, coconut cream tea at one of my favorite coffee shops in West Philadelphia, not telling a few friends that I was in town so I didn’t run myself ragged trying to see and catch up with everyone, surprising my east coast nephew with pizza for dinner, chatting with my grandfather, or curling up in my aunt’s oversized chair and watching the Lethal Weapon shows she keeps on her DVR for me to see when I visit- what I needed took precedent over what others wanted or even needed.

As I pushed my little blue cart down the aisles of Marshalls looking for a new travel coffee mug that was double walled, cute, and reasonably priced but totally fawning over throw rugs that might introduce a little more spring into my space, I found myself declaring what I’d been doing to my friend on the phone. “It’s been costly and exhausting,” I told her. “So the way I see it, if I could spend all of that time, energy, and money trying to make other people happy, I could certainly start doing the same for me,” I continued. “AK, yes. Make sure you out here getting what you need,” she said.

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Photo courtesy of Tendances de Mode

I’ve had the fortune of seeing women in my life go for what they need. I’ve watched some grow into it, others fight for it, and others strut with a madam know it all stride as if it was in their genes. However, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve paid attention to what I’ve seen these women do. As I’ve pondered how, I’ve been able to recall the numerous times they made a decision to honor what they needed. Whether it’s been ending unhealthy relationships, quitting jobs with unhealthy environments, boldly starting new businesses, going back to school, no longer enabling adult children, taking a real vacation or even a staycation, end their thing for unavailable guys, or actually go to all of their annual appointments even after the last one turned up to reveal a lump, I’ve seen these women identify and go for what they knew they were in deep need of.  I’ve watched these women wrestle with the guilt that so easily leeches onto so many of us when we say “no’ to others and “yes” to ourselves, successfully managing to slip from its grip. I’ve watched them glow brighter and brighter each time they’ve made a sound decision that allows them to honor what they know they need even if it is interpreted as selfish, ridiculous, or ill timed.  But perhaps what I have witnessed that is most powerful is the peace and the joy that these women have. With each choice made to truly honor what they needed, they had more peace and more joy.

We’re working our way through the first quarter of the year (craziness right?) and maybe yours has been a little like mine, not exactly what I expected. Maybe it’s demanded a little more fight and offered a little less reprieve. What I’m learning that the best thing I can do is to honor what I know that I need. Recently that’s been to exercise self compassion, speak kindly to myself, keep up my #SelfcareWednesday routine, and even step down from a committee at wok that was adding way too much unnecessary stress, and spend time with people who add a bit more joy to my life than drama.  With each firm no and confident yes, I’ve had more peace and more joy.

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Photo courtesy of Luise Brimble.com

I want to encourage you this week to listen to what you need and honor it. It might be a little tricky. Wants can seem like needs, and needs can seem like wants. Be patient, quiet and still as you distinguish between the two.  Quiet the naysayers and escort the guilt out the door, off the front porch, and of the property.  Turn the phone on silent, get the bagel and the cream cheese, buy the shoes and wear them straight to that networking event where Mr. Not So Right will be, take the day off and go to the movies by yourself and get the large popcorn.  Put in for a few days off, book the appointment at the hair alone and not with your homie who always gives you a discount but only because she’s cancelled and rescheduled five times in the last two days. Take the yoga class, call the counselor and make the appointment, sleep in on Sunday and trust that the Reverend and the Lord will forgive you.

The better we are at knowing what we need, the better we are at supporting the people we love and need us. We get more peace, we get more joy, and honestly we get to know ourselves that much better. Besides, you are the only person on this planet you will have the longest relationship with. You might as well get to know yourself really well. Invite Madam Know It All over for some coffee, tea, or a cocktail and let her stay as long as she (you) needs.

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Photo courtesy of Donna Hay.com

#smallvictory

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com 

“I made it to Starbucks. #smallvictory”

That was the text I sent her. It took a lot to walk the half of block, in the blessed sunshine, amid the unusual warmth of a western New York city in February. Sliding into sweats, exchanging glasses for contacts, putting on my favorite little pair of faux diamond post back earrings, took more effort than it should have. But I wasn’t going to get lost in how it should have went. It went. And here I was  sitting  at the dark stained reclaimed wooden community table sipping a Blood Orange Pellegrino and munching on kettle cooked BBQ potato chips (Don’t judge me. It wasn’t a soy green teal latte kind of moment),  was a small victory.

The day was one that would be a series of small victories, following after the days before it. I had barely managed to survive the week at work. And by barely I mean Friday started with me crying on my way to work and ending the day with a workshop I led with plenty of crying students.  I was tossed one curve ball after another and they missed my bat, yet managed to hit either my head or my heart every single time. By Friday’s end, grateful was an understatement. By Saturday morning, I didn’t yet have the language let alone a word for the haze I found myself in.

I sent myself to the gym and barely managed 40 minute on the stationary bike. It was hard for some reason. I pedaled  until I couldn’t and gave myself permission to stop. I went to the grocery store and decided that my funk would be lifted by frying some fish, fixing some grits, baking some cornbread. Between that and a house filled with music, it was working. It was fleeting. By afternoon I was under covers and grateful to be there, yet equally appreciative to have errands to run with my friend and housemate later that evening.   I was better ‘til morning.

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Photo courtesy of @Effortlyss via Instagram 

Sunday morning came and I wouldn’t let myself think about how I felt. I wouldn’t let myself give into my feelings and miss church. I was up, dressed, protein shake consumed, and at church just in time for the small talk to close and worship to begin. I sent Jesus a thank you for getting me there and slid into the back pew, only managing a quick smile to the woman a little further down the row, and Lindsay, the pastor’s wife.  The sermon progressed, driving home the point of being honest with God. He used David and the Psalms as an example. He reminded us of how in all of his range of emotions David remained brutally honest with God. He didn’t hide his sorrow, his jubilance, his anger. As the service closed we were encouraged to go and do likewise.

So, I did. I sobbed.  I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until my insides hurt. All of my 32 year oldness was more like 3 or 2 year oldness, at least that what it seemed like. You know the toddler who is so distressed and cries and cries until their face is red, hot, and they are coughing. That was me. Back hunched, eyes closed, heaving hot and hard, crying.  I am sad I mumbled. I am so so sad.  Lord I am sad.  This too  I would count as a #smallvictory.

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Photo courtesy of Afroklectic.Tumblr

I started to strive to give you a pretty ending to this post, but I don’t got one and honestly, I don’t think that’s necessary right now. Maybe because I’m not at the end. I’m smack in the messy middle. Middle of  the day. Middle of Starbucks. Middle of decisions.  Maybe because small victories happen in the middle. In the messy parts of life before we get to the end. They happen when we manage to get out the house and walk half a block to Starbucks in the sunshine and amid the unusual warmth. They happen when give it a go and let God know that the prayer won’t be a series of your awsomes but sobs and I’m sads, trusting that in all his awesomeness He can decipher it all- all the pain, the angst, the disappointment, the loneliness, the frustration, the deep deep hurt that aches, aches until the next day which is why sliding into sweats takes longer than it should.

My hope for you in reading this (I know right, me, hoping, and hoping not just for myself, but for you. I think I’m gonna count that as another #smallvictory) is that you too just take in the small victories, and may they build momentum as you muster your grit, manage to keep sight of grace, and muddle through the messy middle, inward, upward, forward.

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Photo courtesy of Black Guys Love Black Girls.Tumblr

Yes White Women, We’re Still Friends

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Jill Biden’s Twitter

We’re still friends. I still like many of them. I still love the ones that I’ve always loved. I still smile, answer my phone, reply to the text, show up to lunch, dinner, or coffee. Their birthdays are still on my phone, along with their kids. I haven’t erased any of our pictures together on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I’m headed to lunch with one next week, just got in from dinner with another, and currently strategizing how to visit a few of them in the early spring when I g out west to visit my family. I may however just be a little miffed by them. Not all of them. Just the ones who have spent the past few days after the US elected it’s newest president in shock, anger, and deep grief. I’ve read the texts, answered the calls, exchanged the emails, seen the post on social media, sat next to them, yet, many of the White Women in my life have left me choosing confusion, sadness, and pity, over perhaps the well deserving anger and doubt about the authenticity of our friendship so easily deserved after recent political events.

One said “It’s so personal. This election of someone who has been so openly hateful about so many people with those identities I care for.” “I’m worried for my daughter,” another said. “I think we may need to wait on having kids, “said another. “We’ve got work to do. I am determined to do something.”  I nodded, knowing it was the shock. I also pondered if every time I told them about my experiences of discrimination that I knew had its roots in racism, sexism, and ageism they thought I was joking, exaggerating, using my way with words to create fanciful stories gingerly constructed by a vivid imagination. Did they think my melanin was a perfected version of Trump’s tan? Did they, like the White woman president at my former institution, think that when I said  half of the Black administrators left the small college on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it was “a coincidence”, because we had nothing better to do after we all relocated, some as far as the west coast, only the year prior?  Did they imagine me to be a master manipulator or a pathological liar who’d charmed every counselor I had over the past 10 years into believing I just had situational depression and the occasional bout of anxiety that could be managed with the right support network and increased knowledge of coping skills?

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Photo courtesy of LA Snoot Tumbler.com

Maybe they thought my expectations too lofty, like one of my White Women friends out west. I told her that I didn’t think I could take a job that would move me closer to the west coast, because I just didn’t see enough people who looked like me in the area and some of the questions asked during my interview made me question their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She responded with what seemed more like thinly veiled disappointment and exasperation than understanding or empathy .“Well I think if that’s what you want then you’re going to need to move to the south or work at an HBCU.”  I’ve resisted calling her and telling her that if she wants a better circumstance for her children given our President elect that she may need to move to another country. 

My narrative, as to what it has meant and continues to mean for me to identify as a woman of color with a disability in the United States of America has not changed just because you started reading it and decided it was a work non fiction instead of fiction. My experiences are not new, more acute, or more, because you suddenly woke from the comfort of your White Woman in the United States of America coma and feel the sharp impact of what it means to live in a country you call home that is considering whether or not it will tolerate you or your children (especially your daughters), and what acts of violence it will inflict on you (systemically and institutionally) or rights it will strip or ignore should it find you intolerable. 

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Photo courtesy of Moi Sab.Tumblr.com 

But yes, we’re still friends. Despite our recent collision early Wednesday morning, that’s knocked us to the ground of our current political climate, we are still friends. I think your wounds may be deeper. With all of my brown-ness, woman-ness, and differently able bodied-ness, I saw the collision coming and began to slow down. But you, you did not see the political upset that has us sprawled on the mosaic tiles of our country’s floor of grief, anxiety, anger, and fear. As I tend to my wounds, many just old scars re opened, I will wait for you to fully regain consciousness, to fully awaken to the same United Sates of America I and many of those who share in my identities or other identities that have been under a delicately stitched tulle blanket of tolerance in this country, will wait for you to awaken. I will extend my hand to you and help you off the cold floor, and will walk the miles with you on your new journey,  in your new narrative, that are appropriate, until our paths diverge again. That, White Women, is what friends do. We see the hurt, we believe the hurt, we join in the hurt, we actively support the recovery as best we are able, and we journey on and let you do likewise, never to far to journey with, just acutely aware that our journeys are not the same. 

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Photo courtesy of Sandra Semburg

Finally Friday

Inhale Friday morning, exhale Monday through Thursday. Inhale the start of the weekend, exhale the end of the week. Welcome to Friday! I don’t know about you, but my week has been one in which no two days have come even close to looking the same. Whether it’s been waking up later or going to be earlier, enough time to run to Starbucks before heading into the office, or a few minutes before bed to journal, it’s been a really different week for me, one in which I found myself being more purposeful in creating moments of joy as opposed to kind of happening upon joyful moments. Seek and ye shall find. May you seek and find joy in your day today and throughout your weekend!

Rerouting

I have a new route and commute to work these days. It means getting up a little earlier and if I truly want to keep my morning routine of devotions, prayer, journaling, tea, and then getting myself ready and out the door with breakfast either consumed or packed to go- prepping the night before. The past two years I have had a morning commute to work that was walkable and usually ranged from 2 to 12 minutes. I’m adjusting. In my adjusting, I’ve been meeting all kinds of new people and people from all walks of life. The amount of diversity I get to engage in and also give me a brief sense of normalcy before I get to my PWI just gives me so much life. I can’t help but smile on my commute… and maybe once a week treat myself to a cup of Starbucks that’s so on my way to work. Like no turns needed. It’s right there. Oh the joy!

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Photo courtesy of Wolf and the Sea Tumblr.com

 

Game Time

I enjoy basketball. Baseball is too ridiculously long. Hockey is wrestling on ice an I don’t like wrestling. Football is confusing. Like what is the point of a first down or a third down? Just get a touch down.  Basketball is just right. It’s not too long, no first or third downs, no fights that happen three or four times in a game where no one gets ejected. I’m excited that the season has started. I’m  a Warriors fan. Love Steph Curry. Shucks love his whole family. I’m excited about what the season is looking like with  KD as a new member. Yet Wednesday night in my commitment to self care and in slight miss of my home city…I watched The Sixers and OKC play. It was a good game and a good night.

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Photo courtesy of Mercury News.com

Soul Work

I finally finished reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I cannot talk about the book highly enough. What I really enjoyed about the end of the book  is how she talks about the need to rumble and rise not only as individuals with all of our own stuff, but how to do it in the context of our families, our businesses, our classrooms, our communities. However, regardless of the scenario, what remained the same was the reminder to stick out the process. To get in the muddy deep of curiosity. To listen, to pause, to question, to be silent, to consider, to wait, to dig, to feel, to name. I carried her words with me this week, especially at the office. It was exhausting by the way. I know, I know-  I’m supposed to share joyful moments. The joy for me was ans will always be those moments when I get to live out what I believe. So when I had to go through this process of rumbling at work and lead in a way that says we can rumble, it doesn’t make me a bad supervisor or you  a bad intern, that was pretty amazing. Granted it was several hours later, trip to the gym, ate a few starbursts amid cutting back on my sugar intake, amazing, but amazing nonetheless.

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Photo courtesy of me, words courtesy of Brene Brown

 

#Foodie

I think the rain stopped just in time for a coworker and I to head to The Grange Community Kitchen for lunch. It’s a new restaurant in the sleepy village of Hamburg, New York. With the fall chill and the grey skies looming, chickpea, kale, and roasted onion soup was a must. I paired it with a walnut and pear salad and took a flourless pumpkin cream cheese muffin back to the office as an afternoon treat. The food was fresh, locally sourced, flavorful, and for a girl like me who loves texture…there was plenty of texture. The food blessed my stomach and the conversation and communal environment blessed my soul. 

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Photo courtesy of The Grange

Finally Friday

I am listening to my Finally Friday play list which includes the likes of I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters, Where Have You Been by Rihanna,  Forever Mine by Andra Day, Happy by Pharell, and Lovely Day by Kirk Franklin. You get the point, I am so glad it is Fridayyyyyyy! It’s been a week team. Like all the prayers and good vibes folks have sent out have been felt, used, and recycled. So muchos gracias. Yet, in case I give the wrong impression, there have absolutely been moments of joy. There was a trip to my local public library, an afternoon break with a colleague who knows how I feel about the occasional green tea latte with almond milk smack in the middle of a Tuesday, changing up my morning routine to include going to the gym and trying a new podcast like The Happy Hour. Most of all, despite the busy, the doing what is inauthentic to myself, I found moments of rest.   I hope amid your week, the hustle and bustle, the heartbreaking news or the reminder of a loved one who’s no longer with you,  the call to offer someone a job or the meeting to share with an employee you are letting them go, the break up or the make up, that you too have had some joy on your journey to Friday and moments of rest. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Daughter Zion Designs, Etsy.com

 

 

 

 

Make Space for Grace

make-spaceforgraceI cannot even tell you how many times I’ve repeated that to myself in just the past 48 hours. I’ve got a hard week ahead. That’s not me being a pessimist. It’s true. There are some things on my calendar that make me cringe, but they come with the current season of my life. A series of things that are  in direct opposition to what I really believe bu align with the expectation of others.  I’m smack in the middle of  soul work that is all about trying to be my authentic self, knowing, I’ve got a week ahead of doing the opposite.

So, I’ve decided the best thing I can try to do is to make space for grace.  If I don’t, I coach myself into trying to believe what I don’t or fault find with myself for not believing like others, which will not bode well for me. I’ve been there, done that, and hated it. I also know that making space for grace means trusting God that in these moments there will be opportunities to further the conversations about the ways the things I’ve been asked to orchestrate this week aren’t really in the best interest of the very people I was asked to support. Making space for grace this week will also mean making space for relinquishing control. I do this overcompensating thing when I have to do something I don’t agree with, and then my need to control everything gets amped up. It’s hard to not be in control if you are worried you’re going to be exposed for being your inauthentic self or that something will come off mediocre cause you didn’t really want to do it in the first place. But grace says I don’t have to be in control. It says that I can punt all the internal angst and the outward obligations to the Master Controller.

Finally making space for grace will mean pushing past the curtains of fear, anxiety, and disagreement, so that I can see anything that may be of value. I may not be on board with all that I have been charged to lead this week, particularly the mode of delivery, but grace says that if I trust, and stay present, that it is absolutely possible for me to see, hear, or experience some great and even necessary things.

So team, that’s all I got for you this Monday morning. Until it’s #FinallyFriday!  xxoo

Finally Friday

Cheers to Friday folks! If I had to pick one word for my week, I’d pick adventure. I like adventures. When I tell myself it’s an adventure, I remind myself to be open and to give fear of the unknown the side eye. My week started in Philadelphia, included a wrong turn to Canada (true story),  eating for a great cause #Foodie,  and soul work that has felt like following the breadcrumbs of my life through the book Rhythms of Rest written by a friend of mine, Shelly Miller.  Through each adventure there has been whispers and shouts of joy and I’m glad to share them with you below.

 

To Infinity and Beyond

Not that I went to outer space or even watched Toy Story recently, but I made my third trip to the airport in the last 10 days this week- and I’m not even Beyonce, or Beyonce’s back up dancer. But of all the trips, this may have been the one I needed most as it was intended time to be spent only engaging in that with provides rest and renewal. My east coast nephew turned 5 last Friday and I purchased a flight over a month ago to surprise him for the long weekend. I landed Saturday afternoon and was off with my sister for last minute party errands for that evening. Sunday he and my sister slept in while I met a friend for much needed and throughly enjoyable conversation over an unsweetened  tall almond milk green tea latte at Starbucks. Afterwards my sister and nephew met us and we were movie bound to see Storks, grabbed delicious food at Red Robin, swung by Target where I started my holiday shopping, and called it a day with milkshakes (my first ever) from Sonic. Monday I was on babysitting with my nephew and Tuesday morning as he went to school and my sister went to work, I started my journey back to Buffalo.

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Photo courtesy of me. The birthday boy at Red Robin.

 

Oh Canada!

I’ve never been out of the country. Well, until Tuesday evening. I landed in Buffalo Tuesday afternoon and headed straight to work for an afternoon full of back to back meetings. As the  day came to a close my coworker sent a text about drinks before our 6:30 dinner reservation with other colleagues and a few of my friends. I was absolutely up for drinks and figured that if I just kept going I’d be in a good mood for dinner and could crash afterwards from my long day. As we were making our way to Providence Social on the west side of the city we were engrossed in really good conversation. It was so good that instead of turning left we went right…right on over to Canada with no passports y’all. We tried to turn around but the gentleman at he Duty Free store sad it was a one way and we had to just keep going. So, just before 6pm Tuesday I, passportless and all, crossed the border into Canada, sat on a bench swinging my legs as they searched my coworker’s car, immensely pleased that I’d finally made it out of the country, even if it was illegal, even if it was for not even 15 minutes in all.

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Passenger side view as we head on over to CANADA! 

 

#DiningOUtWNY

I know this post is Finally Friday. Yet as I write this I am like maybe it should have been called The Longest Tuesday.  After our brief stint in Canada we did make it to Providence Social just in time to order drinks and wait for the rest of our party. We sipped and meandered over to the little table across from the bar to learn more about Dining Out For Life Buffalo. I’d participated in the past in Philadelphia and was excited to participate here in Buffalo. Michelle gave us a run down on the history of the event in Buffalo, assured is the food we would soon consume would be amazing (And it was. OMG  blessed revamped gnocchi!) As the rest of the group came in, we made our way to our table with the perfect ice breaker story of our brief trip to Canada, and then had a blast of a night where conversation and laughter were on repeat until almost 10pm.

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Photo courtesy of Luisa Brimble 

 

Soul Work

Before heading to the SheLeads Conference in Manhattan last Wednesday morning with a group of students I zipped into the mail room one last time to see if my book, Rhythms of Rest, had arrived. It was there and I ripped open the envelope, placed the  book in my tote bag and headed to the parking lot to our shuttle to the airport. When we arrived at the airport, the students scattered to the restrooms, purchase snacks, and find good places  to take selfies. I sat with all of the carry-ons, opened the book, and began to read. Each day since the book’s arrival I’ve been reading, writing, underlining, bracketing, thinking, and praying over the pages that I have read. I have found the tides or temptation to worry, to fix, to control, slowly recede from the shores of my life, creating a rhythm in the last week and of heightened awareness  to choice.  I get to choose more often than I realize if I will trust or fret, say yes when I want or need to say no, turn off the TV and focus on a task as opposed to “multitask”, etc. I’m only on page 79, but so far, the way the book has nudged me to slow down, take deeper joy in that which I already enjoy, prioritize the necessary, and simply show up in my life and what I feel the Lord speaking to me in times of prayer has been…AWESOME!

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Photo courtesy of Black Guys Love Black Girls.Tumblr.com