Sunday, November 10, 2013


for the young women who make my day, every day

She said I was brave.
She didn't know that two days ago
I was contemplating walking away forever
because I was so afraid of what I would face

She said I was awesome.
She didn't know that, behind closed doors,
someone was saying I was mean, insecure,
and that I was the problem.

She said I was strong.
She didn't know about all the times I walked into my office
and cried, and cried, and cried,
because my feelings were hurt
yet again.

She said I was beautiful.
She didn't know about the times
a man said I wasn't good enough,
not attractive enough,
just a little too soft in the wrong places
and refused to look at my inner beauty.

She said I was phenomenal.
She didn't know that all I saw within myself
was a woman living, just making it day by day
only by the grace of God.

She said I was her friend.
She said I was her friend.
She said I was her friend.

And everything else besides that
no longer mattered.

Why I Won't Change for You

Courtesy of
I seem to find myself in some kind of conflict with someone more often than I think most people do. I'm just putting it out there. Typically, if one finds oneself in the amount of tense situations that I have found myself in, people will be prone to think, and ask, "What are you doing to cause this?" or "If this is happening so much to you, don't you think you're the problem?" And, of course, I'm the first person to ask myself, "What am I doing wrong?" But when I reflect on the situations that have caused conflict, I can't think of anything wrong that I am doing, especially because I am being my genuine self.  When I ask for a specific answer to the question, "What am I doing wrong?" (and yes, I have asked this), I never get a specific answer.

The other day, I had a very unnecessary clash with someone who has access to my work calendar.  Every time I am unavailable, I block the time off in red so that no one schedules anything for me. I noticed that, even as I was moving meetings out of that time, more meetings were being scheduled, despite the fact that I had left a note within that time frame that said, "PLEASE DO NOT SCHEDULE APPOINTMENTS". I approached the person and asked, "Did you see the red area that said, 'Please do not schedule appointments'?" And the response was, "No, I didn't see it. I didn't know you didn't want me to schedule appointments."  And my response was, "It says 'Please do not schedule appointments'", in the same tone of voice I use all the time, except for when I am presenting or making a joke, which is really the only time I raise my voice.  Well, from that point on, I was accused of "arguing" and was told that I was not clear enough, although every time I block something in red, everyone knows that means "hands off" that time on my schedule, and again, I had written on my calendar a specific note not to schedule anything. This continued, and could have continued all day, because this person believed that they were being victimized and attacked by me and interrupted me every time I tried to express myself, so I left the room.

The following day, we had the obligatory meeting to make sure that we were all okay and would be able to work together.  In that meeting, I explained that I was merely asking a question and trying to clarify the situation. The person took the opportunity to tell me that I was being rude and mean.  I said, "In what way? I was asking a question." Well, the person didn't like my tone of voice. I explained that this is the way that I speak. And, in addition to several personal judgments about me and all of the things "on my plate", I was told: "WELL, YOU NEED TO CHANGE!" 

I once had an exchange with a student I was supervising who also didn't like my tone of voice. Whatever we were talking about, I was being serious, not laughing or joking. He said I was being aggressive and getting angry. And I said, "I'm actually not angry at all. I'm just not laughing or joking because this is a serious conversation." He said I was being aggressive, and I said, "No, I'm being assertive and you are uncomfortable with that. You're the one whose face is turning red, and who is starting to raise your voice. I have not changed my tone in this entire conversation."  I don't know if that student ever learned anything from that conversation, but I learned that, if you are a woman, and especially a woman of color, your very voice can be a source of discomfort for those with privilege.

A few months ago, I had an exchange with someone with whom I try to have as very little contact as possible. The person said, "You don't let me be a man". While he didn't offer any explanation for this, I continue to ask myself what he meant. Since I purposely avoid contact with him as much as humanly possible, I am left to believe that my mere presence threatens his masculinity.  

My voice is not high-pitched.  There's no "lilt" at the end that makes it sound as if I'm unsure of what I'm speaking about. I also try to communicate as directly as possible. Nowhere in these situations did I judge anyone, tell anyone what they were doing was wrong, or accuse anyone of being or doing something to harm me. I am careful in my communication with others to stay away from accusations. I learned about "I-statements" a long time ago, and I use them as often as possible, or I ask questions to make sure we are on the same page. However, in all of these situations, I was accused of attacking, being aggressive or combative.  

The truth is, I am very aware of my tendency to persist in seeking clarification and truth. I am also very aware that my questions cause discomfort because people have to reflect on their actions. While I am the first person to ask myself and others for feedback on what I am doing wrong, I notice that others would rather take the easy road and place blame on everyone else but themselves. And on many occasions when I have been passive-aggressively disregarded or disrespected and decided to directly confront people about it, the very act of telling someone how I feel causes the person to say I'm being mean, or victimizing them in some way. Then, instead of being the one who is hurt, I have suddenly been labeled the aggressor.

There is a perception that I am strong.  Often, I think this gives people license to push and prod at me in passive aggressive ways (because they're too scared to be direct). It's as if I don't have feelings, that I don't hurt. However, I am just as sensitive, if not more sensitive, than anyone I know.  

Being in charge of a women's leadership group gives me direct contact to many young women who are learning to find their voice. It puts me in a position to demonstrate direct communication, rather than the indirect or passive communication style that has placed women in subordinate positions in society. Even men will say, "I can't read your mind", to a woman, but when she speaks her mind, he thinks she's too aggressive, or - here comes the F-word....FEMINIST (oh, the horror!). The point is, we can't please everyone all of the time, but we can speak our minds and express ourselves so that we can move forward without constantly wondering if we were clear in communicating our intentions and desires.

There are young people, men and women, who are coming to me with their pain. It is stuck within them, deep in crevices they didn't even know they had, holding them back from all that they could potentially be. And because I use my voice, my authenticity, my confidence and strength, and yes, my vulnerability, to show them that IT IS OKAY to speak their minds, and to STOP APOLOGIZING for their presence in the spaces they occupy, they are learning to dig deep into those crevices and unearth that pain, so that they can move freely in this world, and BE WHO THEY WERE CREATED TO BE.

So, if you like me or don't, I WON'T CHANGE FOR YOU. If my mere presence makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel like less than, THAT'S YOUR PROBLEM. If you can't relate to my voice - that voice that is the amalgam of Brooklyn, Nuyorican, Spanglish, Brown, Activism, and LOVE - I will not apologize.  I am just sorry that you refuse to relate, because you are the one who is missing out.  

I am always changing, always reflecting, always growing, always learning.  But I do so on my own terms, not to satisfy someone else's comfort level or help them maintain their privilege.  To the young people I love with my whole heart - when you find your voice, don't let anyone try to take it away from you. Don't change for anyone but YOU.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Issues (We ALL Have Them)

Courtesy of
There's a lot that I do really well.  The people I interact with on a daily basis see it, point it out, and sometimes get sick of it.  The energy and passion with which I live practically every aspect of my life wears me out sometimes.  I'm happy with who I am and how I live my life, for the most part. 

The area where I find myself not as successful is in romantic relationships. I don't seem to be able to connect well with men romantically, though I do connect very well with men as a friend. There are a few men in my life who I would consider to be very good friends, men with whom I have no problem communicating, and who seem to be open to communicating with me. One of these men holds the title of "Best Guy Friend", and he and I have a very easy, open, loving, funny and sarcastic communication style. I don't have to hide anything from him, and I don't feel judged by him, and I would dare to say he feels the same way. When I have one on one time with the male students where I work, it is the same - easy, open, nonjudgmental - and they seem to have no problem opening up to me and being vulnerable and even crying at times. I have held many a young man in my arms as he's cried and just let out his pain. (These are the times when I'm most grateful for my assignment.) I have a communication style that is very direct and straightforward, which often works well with the other gender in platonic relationships.

I can easily point out my flaws when it comes to developing a romantic relationship. I am so afraid of getting hurt that I often put up this protective shield that can push men away. I have a sharp tongue, and I'm not afraid to use it. Additionally, whereas I am warm in most of my interactions with others, I can be distant with potential mates. And let's not even talk about trust. I try to be trusting, but I've been lied to and betrayed enough to know that trust really does have to be built. But honestly, most of these flaws do not present themselves without some kind of action that sends up red flags in my mind. The point is, I know that I am not perfect, so I cannot expect perfection, and I know what kinds of "issues" I bring to the table and where they come from.

There was a three-week period last month where I was told by two different men, "You have deep-seated issues with men." The first time I heard it, I could understand why that person mentioned it. We were in a situation where he had done something so wrong to me that I could have pursued actions that would have led to life-changing consequences for him. He was in a position to lose a lot, but was trying to hold on for dear life by telling me what he thought was wrong with me to deflect what he had done. He had previously heard about some of my romantic relationship concerns, and thought this could be a good time to bring up an area where I was most vulnerable, because he was very vulnerable.

The second time I heard it, though, I started to wonder. Do I have "deep-seated" issues with men? Having heard this twice in three weeks, I had to ask myself if I was the reason why I was having issues with these two men. However, the second time I heard it, it was from someone with whom I'd been in a romantic relationship. We had just had a conversation where I made it clear that I was moving on, and that included dating again. After receiving that information, he spent a lot of time telling me where my future relationships with men would fail, and that my "deep-seated issues" wouldn't allow me to have a healthy, long-term relationship with another man. At first, I was scared that he was right. But then I realized that this is what someone says when they are afraid of losing you. Just like an emotional abuser will tell you that no one will love you the way he or she does, he was telling me that any of my future relationships would fail because of ME. 

I'm divorced. I already know what one failed relationship looks like. And yes, it is part of the reason why I'm afraid to fully open up, because I don't want to fail again. But this guy, this one who told me my issues were the reason my relationships would fail, has issues that would take years upon years of psychotherapy, or a miracle from God, to heal. His way of dealing with emotions is to ignore them. His way of dealing with me is to hurt me and push me away. So, while I'm fully aware that we all do have issues, I realized that some people are willing to be honest and up front about what theirs are, while others are far too happy to project theirs on to me.

The first man was angry with me and blamed me for "not letting him be a man", when in reality he had put himself in a position to lose his personality to a woman he chose to be with, someone who did not want him to have any other "single, beautiful women" in his life (quotes are his words). The second man was angry at me and blamed me for our unhealthy relationship, when in reality his lack of self-love and his own unwillingness to grow and face his personal demons had caused him to reject the love of the very person he's claimed to love since we met thirty years ago.  

In the days following those two incidents when I was told that I have "deep-seated issues" with men, I reflected and came to the realization that I don't have deep-seated issues with men. I have issues with men who have issues. And the main issue that I have with men who have issues is that they choose not to deal with them. While I have taken the time to seek help regarding my issues stemming from the death of my father and my divorce, these men have not even admitted their issues (the first did when he realized his livelihood was being threatened; the second, who knows if he ever will).  Not only have they not come to terms with their issues, but they blamed me for what was missing in their lives. They made me the recipient of their feelings of loss or rejection, and proceeded to take actions that would cause me to feel rejected. For a minute I did feel that way.  However, since there is absolutely nothing I could do to change their lives and the way they choose to live them, I have removed myself from those situations and removed those people from my life, and I've come to the realization that I lack nothing. I am whole and complete as I am, and I am not responsible for the way others choose to live.  

As a society, we haven't provided a space for men to come to terms with the feelings of loss and rejection they may be living with. We haven't said to men that it's okay to talk, to cry, to express emotions, or to even identify the myriad of emotions there are to experience.  We have told little boys that "boys don't cry", and that when they are hurt, they need to "suck it up". We even have derogatory names for boys and men that cry and share their emotions. How many times have you heard a little boy called a sissy if he cried, or told that he "hits like a girl" if he's not good at sports? Boys and men walk around carrying within themselves pain that turns into anger; anger that lashes out in violent ways sometimes. Anger that stems from a loss of a sense of power that then leads some of them to seek that power by violating a woman's body, or by ending the lives of innocent people. Without a space to express every aspect of themselves, men will continue to have deep-seated issues. You'll just never know it until you are the recipient of their pain. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thank You, Trayvon (Race & the Dehumanization of Black and Latino Men)

 About an hour ago, the jury began deliberating for the first full day on the trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012, as he was walking to his father's house from purchasing Skittles and an iced tea.

Without going into the details of an altercation that I was not there to witness, I will state the obvious effects that have lasted since this event became national news: protests and marches, people donning hoodies and declaring, "I am Trayvon", President Obama stating that, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon", people defending Zimmerman on the basis of a "Stand Your Ground" law that I am not sure really relates to this particular incident, people bringing up Martin's decisions pre-incident, and racial discussions that didn't go past the surface racial discourse we usually allow in this country.

We talk about race as if it were a real thing.  ALL people look different, except for identical siblings.  I am a caramel colored brown, but there are people in my family who are lighter, and some who are darker.  Race is a social construct, and, especially in American society, race has been a method of discriminating, segregating, and maintaining privilege for an elite few.  This is an aspect of capitalism and social darwinism that is almost impossible to overcome.  And if race isn't made an issue, class is the issue, poverty is the issue, gender is the issue. Something will be an issue, because, especially in a time of recession and economic struggle, people want to keep what is theirs, and do not want to share the wealth.  The United States, as it was founded, was based on just a few obtaining the privileges of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Did George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin because he was Black?  Did he kill him because he (Zimmerman) feared for his life?  Or did Zimmerman pursue and eventually kill Trayvon Martin because he didn't think of him as a human being, but as an a**hole, one of "those" who "always get away"?

I think the main problem we have in a society where Black and Latino men are pursued, beaten, stopped and frisked, and murdered constantly, sometimes by each other, many times by people in authority, is that we have stopped looking at Black and Latino men as human beings.  They are "animals", "savages", "thugs", "a**holes"; or, on the other hand, "athletes", "sponsors", or "hip hop moguls".  We either treat them like they're not human because they're sub-human, or we treat them as banks and use them for their talents and abilities, then throw them away when we have no use for them.

Believe me, all human beings are capable of poor decision-making, and I'm not excusing the bad behavior of some Black and Latino men.  What I am saying is that, as a society, it has become okay to say that a Black or Latino man should know how to comply with police officers, that they shouldn't wear what they wear, walk around at night, drive nice cars, or have human emotions or reactions.  We don't allow Black and Latino men to be HUMAN, and this is not a new thing.  Racism began as a way to maintain free labor, and in order to use and abuse people in the way slavery did (and still does), dehumanization is essential.

In not allowing the term "racial profiling" to be used in the courtroom, the judge in the George Zimmerman trial gave the prosecution and the defense an opportunity to portray Trayvon Martin as a human being, with both good and bad aspects of his humanity.  In seeing Trayvon Martin as a human being, we can see him as he really was on the night of his death: a 17-year-old boy minding his own business, doing everyday things we all take for granted, armed with snacks, who was murdered by someone who refused to treat him as a human being.

Trayvon Martin's parents don't care that he was Black.  He was their son.  His friends, I'm sure, didn't care that he was Black.  He was their friend.  His brother didn't care that he was Black.  He was his brother.  He was a PERSON, walking down the street, protecting himself from the rain with his hoodie, coming back from the store with a snack, talking on his cell phone with his friend.  He was not expecting that taking these normal, human actions would result in an altercation that led to his death.  No matter what the jury decides, we have moved beyond Trayvon as an "a**hole who always gets away", to someone's son, brother, and friend.

We all walk, talk, and go to and from the store every day, yet some of us have to worry more than others that those simple actions could lead to our deaths.  For some people, knowing what Trayvon Martin did that night as a HUMAN BEING doing what HUMAN BEINGS do might help them to understand that race makes a difference in the outcomes of people's actions.  However, more importantly, it might help them to understand that Black and Latino men, like Trayvon Martin, are human beings, not animals, or savages, or a**holes, who deserve to live a life free of worry about whether they will be able to see their loved ones once more when they go out at night.

Thank you, Trayvon.  We didn't know you, but you remind us that we, as a society, need to move beyond the dehumanization of anyone in this society, and to look upon everyone as human beings with equal right to live and pursue happiness in this place we call America.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

If the (Leadership) Shoe Fits, Wear It

Every year, the women's leadership program I advise has a ceremony to recognize the young women who have participated in the program all year.  I am asked to speak at this ceremony, and I try to write something  that relates to the year's theme and leaves everyone feeling great.

This year, as I ruminated about my experience of the program, the rough times kept coming up.  My most recent post reflects my challenges with coordinating this program.  It is hard work.  As with any kind of development intervention, I don't always see that the students have made the connections I think they are supposed to be making.  I don't always get the satisfaction of knowing that they have learned something.  And yes, I would like to know that I have made a difference, and that doesn't always happen in the way I would like.  More often than not, I feel taken for granted and, in some ways, abused by the very people I am trying to guide in the personal and professional development process.  So when I thought about what to write, I wasn't concerned about writing a "feel good" speech. I decided I wanted to make sure that people would connect to some truth within themselves that they may not have accepted yet; something that would cause them to reflect on their leadership journey and integrate their personal identity with that process.  What emerged was a list of leadership lessons, entitled, "If the Shoe Fits, Wear It".

  1. It’s really important to stay true to your word.  When you are a leader, people want to know that you will do what you say you will do.
  2. With that said, don’t say yes to everything.  You will find yourself overwhelmed and feeling incapable of doing it all.  I can promise you that people who look like they can do it all have just learned the art of limiting themselves to what they know they can do.  Those who actually attempt to do it all won’t be able to get it all done.
  3. Remember that a leader is, first and foremost, a servant.  Leadership isn’t convenient.  People will want to see you lead.  Be where you say you will be, when you say you will be there.  And understand that a title or a position means nothing.  There are plenty of people walking around with titles who are not true leaders.  True leaders understand that their role is to serve, to help others, and to provide the inspiration for lasting change.
  4. If you want to change the world, your community, or even your own home, you must begin with yourself.  You cannot be a leader who isn’t willing to change or grow.  Every person you meet and every circumstance you find yourself in are opportunities to grow.  Do not close yourself off to those opportunities.
  5. On that note, be open.  Be vulnerable.  Sometimes being vulnerable will cause you to be hurt by others, but it also shows others your humanity.  And we all need to see our leaders as humans so that we can aspire to leadership.
  6. Be genuine.  Walk the talk.  Don’t "fake it 'til you make it".  You are on a leadership JOURNEY; therefore, it’s okay to fall, to make mistakes, to get back up and be better from the fall.  People know when you aren’t genuine, and truthfully, people don’t respect people who aren’t authentic.
  7. Love.  As the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara once said, "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a true revolutionary lacking this quality...We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force."
  8. And, don't forget my motto - "strive for excellence, not perfection".  You'll never achieve perfection, but excellence is within your grasp.
      Reflect on these leadership lessons, and you may find that some will resonate with you now, some at a later point in your own leadership and life journey.  If the leadership shoe fits, wear it.  Maybe it doesn't fit comfortably right now, but once you have tried it on, worn it a few times, and let it stretch, you may find yourself settling into your identity as a true leader.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Closed Doors

Photo courtesy of the Global Theater Project
"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."
- Alexander Graham Bell

Today, I got a door slammed in my face.  Not literally, but it felt that way.  And yet, as that door closed before me, I felt a mixture of emotions.  Amidst the sadness, betrayal, and abandonment, I felt something else.  I felt freedom.

I often try not to be too open about things that happen at work, mainly because I am grateful to have a job.  While no one's job is perfect, I have a pretty good thing going on.  I have tenure, so I don't have to worry about losing my job - ever.  I also see about twelve students a day, so I'm definitely busy.  I serve on committees and I plan campus-wide events, and I even got a call directly from the President of the college today.  So I really don't have much to complain about. 

Except that I am not being "fed" at work.  I have been doing the same job for the past six years, and while I have looked for opportunities to grow within my job, there's not much professional growth that can happen within my institution.  In other words, I'm pretty stuck in the position I'm in now.  Again, I would not normally say these things in a public forum, except for when I believe there's a lesson to be learned from it.  It's in my nature to help others, and if I have to be vulnerable to do so, I will take that risk.

In addition to my actual job, I am the program coordinator and advisor for a women's leadership development program.  This is not just a series of workshops, or a "girl's group".  This is a well-thought out program; a full-year leadership institute that aligns with nationally recognized standards and that utilizes student development and counseling theory.  There is a mission, vision, goals and a strategic model for running this program.  It is something that someone could possibly do as a full-time job, and for the past six years, I have been the one consistent presence in this program, although I have had several interns and students who have poured their time and energy into making this work.  I know that this program works, because I just completed a qualitative study that assesses the program's impact on young women's self-efficacy.  I know that it is one of the safe spaces on our campus, especially for young women of color.  I know that it provides opportunities for growth and development in the short span of one year for many young women on campus.  And I know many young women who can truly say that it has been a transforming experience in their college career.

Over the past couple of years, I've noticed that running the program seems to have created a burden on the team that helps me run it.  That wasn't always the case.  Maybe I was spoiled by previous teams with whom I'd developed a great personal and professional relationship, but the team dynamic was what refreshed and energized me for the first three years.  They made the extra evenings and weekends worth it.  More recently, I've noticed that the "spirit" of the organization is missing.  It has been missing for the past two years.  And while there are many very good moments, I don't know that the spirit of the organization will ever return.  Somehow along the way, it lost its heart, its energy, its passion.  And I have lost mine along the way as well.

I started to notice some things recently about myself as a professional.  Others at my job are getting opportunities to learn new things that I've asked to learn but didn't get the opportunity to because I'm "too busy" with the women's program.  And while some of the young women who complete the program go on to utilize the leadership skills they've developed to obtain internships and jobs and amazing experiences, I am like a movie still, playing on the same loop over and over again.  

I have contemplated moving on from this program for the past two years.  It has been difficult because, in many ways, this program helped me find my purpose in life.  However, as I look at the unhappy, tired, and even apathetic faces of the women who are supposed to be the most passionate and energetic about it - the team leaders - I realize that this door was closed awhile ago, but we were staring at it, hoping that it would open and provide us with something new.  

Today, the door was slammed in my face when I learned that no one who has been on the team wants to continue this journey with me.  And now I have a decision to make. Do I continue to look at this door that has slammed shut in my face?  Or do I move on?  

One of the things I have learned in the past year is that I need to care for myself.  All of the times I wanted to quit since the inception of this program, I was asked by someone not to quit.  I was asked to continue for the benefit of others.  But today, I realized that I can't ask anyone to do the same.  And so that door that has closed has given me a new, open door.  The door to MY life.  The door to what benefits ME.  

It's time for me to stop looking at that closed door.  It's time to look at the doors to my new life that are opening.

I am grateful to all of the young women who have given their time and energy to helping me develop young women leaders.  You have no idea how much you have taught me.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"I Just Want You to Be Happy" and Other Things People Should Stop Saying

Feeling Faces Chart

The other day I was having a conversation with a good male friend who asked if I'd tried online dating yet.  Backstory: I had previously mentioned I might try it this year, but when that little tax cut came to an end and I saw a decrease in my paycheck, I decided that online dating sites was not in my budget.  Therefore, at this point I am not currently putting in any effort into dating or romance.  On top of that, my responsibilities at work are in the process of changing and we are understaffed, which means I'm doing the equivalent of about two and half people's workload.  Oh, and on top of that, I am taking a class that requires research, interviewing, transcription, and many hours of writing. And I'm taking care of myself - mind, body and spirit.  So...I'm kind of busy.

I get along with a lot of people.  I wouldn't say that I have a lot of close friends, but I have a lot of friends.  Many of my friends are men, and I'm the kind of person who stays friends with the people I've dated in the past, so there's that element that sometimes gets into my relationship dynamics.  I am also friends with men who are married.  Some of those men are unhappy and are pretty vocal to me about their unhappy marriages.  (Now, I know what you're thinking.  And no, you're wrong.  The minute a man talks to me about his unhappy marriage, I ask him what his responsibility is in making the marriage work. I'm not stupid.)

Let me tell you a little about me.  I'm spiritual.  I have two degrees and working on a third.  I'm curvy and working on getting rid of the chunky parts.  I'm one of the healthiest people in my family's history.  I speak two languages and understand a couple more.  I'm pretty smart.  I can cook (I mean, I can throw down in the kitchen, pretty much).  I write.  I can hold a note.  I can shake what my momma gave me.  I laugh a lot and I have a lot of laughs.  I smile practically all day, every day.  I'm a human being, I make mistakes and I own up to them.  So...what's missing?

My male friends acknowledge these things about me, and sometimes, dare I say it?  The married ones wish their wives had some of my qualities.  And they wonder, out loud, why I am single.  This is usually how the conversation goes:

Guy: Why are you single?
Me: I don't know.  I haven't met anyone who wants to commit.
Guy: Well, have you tried...
  1. Online dating?
  2. Taking up a hobby?
  3. Going out to bars?
  4. Church?
  5. Dating me? (Yep, some of the married ones have tried this.  I don't talk to them much anymore.)
  1. Yes (kind of).
  2. Ain't nobody got time for that!
  3. No, unless I want to get shot.
  4. Haha that's one of the worst places.
  5. Sure, I'll go out with you as long as your wife comes along.
Guy: But I just want you to be happy.

PAUSE. Take a look at the third paragraph.  The one about me.  Again, I don't claim to be perfect.  However, I do have some great qualities and I'm usually smiling and laughing.  That's usually a sign that a person is happy.  The statement "I just want you to be happy", in my case, implies two things:
  1. A woman can't be happy without a man.
  2. I'm not happy.
And here's where the fallacy about happiness gets axed: Happiness is an emotion, like any other.  Happy, sad, confused, tired, excited, etc. are temporary emotions that NO ONE experiences all the time (unless you suffer from clinical depression, and even then, those emotions are more complex than sadness).  If we were happy all the time, we would take that emotion for granted.  So, am I happy all the time?  No.  But do I lack happiness because I don't have a man in my life on a consistent basis?  Not at all.  Would I be happier with a man in my life?  Maybe some days, but I'm pretty sure that for at least one week out of the month I would feel homicidal.  

I'm grateful for the people I have in my life.  I'm grateful that when I eat what I cook, sometimes I say I want to marry myself.  I'm grateful for my curves, my pretty hair, my expressive eyes, and basically my overall awesomeness.  I'm grateful for my heart, which fights to stay open because it understands that love comes with the risk of pain but it also comes with the possibility of overwhelming love. So I'm grateful.  

Since when is a grateful person not happy?

I promise you, my friends who just want me to be happy, that I am happy, most of the time.  And when my life partner decides to walk the rest of this journey with me, he's not going to be the period - the validation that I have done all I could to be perfect enough to deserve a good man.  No, he's going to be a human being, just like me, with great qualities and a beautiful heart.  And we will walk this journey together - happy, sad, excited, confused, hurt, angry, bitter, and happy again...but together.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New You!

From My Own Kitchen Table
Let me tell you what I did not do last year.
  • I did not finish writing my book.
  • I did not self-publish the book that I did not finish writing.
  • I did not lose all of the weight I wanted to lose by summer.
  • I did not get accepted into another doctoral program that I applied to.
  • I did not change jobs.
  • I did not have different (or growing) responsibilities at my job.
  • I did not change geographical locations.
  • I did not find the love of my life.
  • I did not start a family.
These are some goals I had set for myself last year.  As the year went on, disappointment became a part of life.  I was most disappointed in my lack of progress regarding the book I am in the process of writing.  I think I've written about two full chapters as well as an intro (but don't quote me on that).  So I felt like a loser.  Most of us do when we don't meet our goals, and we do like to make lofty goals every new year, so I would say that we usually put ourselves in a position to feel like losers.

Let me tell you what I did last year.
  • I took a semester off from my doctoral program.
  • I started seeing a counselor.
  • I joined a weight-loss program.
  • I started working out and, most consistently, practicing yoga. (Nothing fancy, just some dvds.)
  • I tried some new things, like breathing. (Really!)
  • I went on a few vacations to places that calm me and give me joy.
  • I started eating food for health benefits as well as for enjoyment. 
Honestly, I am really happy about what I did accomplish.  The difference between the goals I set for myself (which I did not achieve) and what I accomplished is that the goals were outward achievements - things I could be applauded and congratulated for - while my accomplishments were more personal. Yes, people have noticed some weight loss. Yes, people have remarked that I seem a lot less stressed now.  However, I personally experienced the benefits of the practices I incorporated into my life moment by moment, which helped me to appreciate the small changes that were transforming me into a new me.  

So what have I learned about making goals for the new year?

1. You really don't have to.  If you don't, you're not a loser. If you do and don't achieve them, you're also not a loser, but you'll be more likely to think you are.

2. If you are going to set goals, they can be as small as, "I am going to incorporate a fruit and/or vegetable into every meal", and those goals can be set, and met, daily.

3. Goals should be super-specific.  "I am going to be healthy" is not a goal.  "I am going to tell three people I love them today" is.  At the end of the day you should be able to specifically assess whether or not you met your goal.

4. Stop expecting yourself to be perfect and do amazing things.  Honestly, amazing people just are.  Just BE. 

5. Congratulate yourself for making it through what you have been through.  And find reasons to be happy with who you are, and who you are becoming.

Happy New You!