22 Years and Counting: Falling in Love Intuitively

IMG_2990I’m glad I had the opportunity to “find a man” when I was in my early 20s.

I’m glad I fell in love in my youth.

I’m glad I fell in love when I was younger because I was  not as conscious of all of the things I wanted and needed. All I knew is that this guy is a cool dude. He likes hanging out, having a drink or two, or four and walking in the rain. He was about to graduate with an accounting degree and wanted to work on a cruise ship.

I thought that was brave. I mean who finishes undergrad and then aspires to work on a cruise ship?

I didn’t have the list that so many of my friends over 25, 35, 45 seem to currently have. I didn’t even have the list that has accumulated after two decades of marriage.

I wasn’t thinking about if he saved money or if he had a 401k. He made about 27k at first, and he spent most of his money. I wasn’t consciously thinking about how or if he would love our future kids. We eventually had two daughters; he avidly watches superhero films with one and advises the other about the importance of self-respect. I wasn’t worried about if he would clean the house or take my car to the shop. He ended up being obsessive about cleaning, at first, and he rarely serviced any of my cars. I wasn’t concerned about if he’d support my future goals. He does. Always.

He played tennis and I barely ran across the street even if I saw a car coming. He only ate rice for lunch and dinner, while I devoured several servings of any and everything in front of him. One of our first dates was to Red Lobster. Because he didn’t have enough money, he let me eat what I wanted while he ate salad and cheddar biscuits. I didn’t condemn him for not having money, cause he was 23. Plus, I didn’t have any money either.

I didn’t follow a 90-day rule.

I didn’t care if he believed in God, was a Christian or an atheist. Our philosophies about a higher power developed and intertwined like violet Wisteria on a white trellis. Most days we would just be. We would talk about hypothetical situations and what-ifs grew to be realities.

I didn’t read a bunch of magazines (or blogs) about how to get a man, how to keep a man, how to stop your man from cheating.

I’m glad I fell in love in my youth because I had the time and space to follow my intuition and my heart each step of the way.

Image. ©2013 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Image. ©2013 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 22 years of our marriage.

Advertisements

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Tikeetha Thomas

Unlike The Unhappy Wife book, Daddy is not written by me. This anthology includes stories written by women, who felt it important to publicly re-tell narratives centered on their relationship with their father. Each woman’s purpose is similar, yet different. Every Friday, I invite you to read about their reason why.

Today, meet Tikeetha Thomas, author of “A Daughter’s Grace,” which not only illustrates the difference between grace and forgiveness, but also shows the challenge that comes with offering it to an absent father.

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? The relationship between a father and daughter can be complicated. He’s supposed to be her first love. However, in many cases of divorce or abandonment that doesn’t always happen and it can have a lasting effect on how we conduct our own relationships. In my case, my parents divorced and my dad never looked back. There were glimpses where he would show up and promise things that never came to fruition, but he wasn’t there. This affected me greatly. I struggled in my relationships; I struggled with finding my own identity and believing it and I struggled in trying to get to know my father as an adult. I wanted to share the awkwardness, pain and anger that can come with trying to rebuild a relationship.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? It’s non-existent. He called me and left me a voicemail on my birthday months ago and I’ve yet to call him back. Partly because I have a lot going on and I can’t focus on more than one battle at a time and mainly because I don’t know what to say beyond hello. I didn’t call for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I am just going through the motions of viewing him as a man that I dated and I may or may not call back. There’s no rush because I’m not really interested in him, so I’ve slid him to the side.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be? I survived in spite of you not being present. Through all the traumas, trials and tribulations that I endured – I’m still standing.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with “daddy issues” what would it be?

Don’t let not having a dad define you. Find out who you are and what you want out of life without looking to get it from men that may not ever understand. Work on you. You don’t need a man to tell you that you’re pretty. Look in the mirror every day and say those words to yourself. No man is worth your self-esteem. By lying up under the wrong man you could cause yourself a lifetime worth of issues.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? Don’t leave. Even if you have a hateful relationship with your daughter’s mother, stay a part of her life. Write in a journal daily letters to let her know about life, you, your family and just to encourage her. Stay in her life and help her understand the facts of life. Be her first love. Encourage her dreams and do what you promise. Your words matter.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? I hope that it sheds some light to the complicated relationships women can have with their fathers. That people see the importance of being there and that women know that they are not alone in missing their daddy. But, I think I want women to know that if he’s not there that you are still valuable and worthy of love from a wonderful man.

What are you working on currently? Wow! I’m busy! Personally, I’m working on going into a couple of business ventures and writing a book of fiction loosely based on my life. I’m also in a relationship-a healthy relationship, so I’m working on developing that and getting to the next level. I’m raising my son to be an amazing young man, which is the most important thing in my life right now. I’m active in my sorority. I’m writing grants for my son’s school, active in the PTA, active in a number of social groups and blogging while working. With all that I have going on, I’m also working full-time managing a staff of five. But, I love my job. I actually wake up each day excited to go into work.

tikeethaTikeetha Thomas is a full-time working mom with a beautiful nine-year-old son who is the apple of her eye. She resides in Maryland and spends time volunteering, blogging, and maintaining a healthy relationship with a wonderful man. You can read more about her life at her blog, A Thomas Point of View.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Thomas, the March of Dimes. According to their mission statement, “Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

The eBook version of Daddy is available now for pre-order!

The paperback version of Daddy is available for order here.

Monday Notes: Projecting

When I was twenty-two years old, my Grannie called me fat. We were discussing clothes, maybe my bra size or upcoming wedding dress size or something like that. And that’s when she said it.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids to get fat. You’re not supposed to be fat before you even get married.”

I was 125 pounds and a size six.

I probably met her criticisms and judgments with silence as usual. But let’s be clear. I cared about what she said. She was my Grannie and as far as I knew, she’d experienced more than I had about how women were supposed to look and act.

weight_lossAfter that day I obsessed about my weight. I read up on how to lose pounds.

One popular way in the 90s was to count calories. So, I counted. I ate no more than 1200 calories per day. That meant I usually had a baked potato or salad for lunch.

Five times a week, I popped in a Donna Richardson tape and sweated to old Motown hits in Dwight’s apartment. By the time, our wedding date rolled around, I was an abnormal 100 pounds and wore a size one. Even in my youth, I’d never been so small.

On our honeymoon, I ate all the tacos and drank all the Margaritas. Subconsciously, I was married, and according to Grannie had a license to get fat. I returned to a size considered normal for me.

***

Years later, both of our daughters visited Dwight’s parents, whom they affectionately call nana and papa.

Although I’d already been briefed about the trip’s happenings, I asked the obligatory question anyway, “How was your visit?”

Desi spoke up. “It was okay, but Nana just kept calling Kesi fat.”

It was true. She’d ridiculed Kesi’s nine-year-old frame the entire two weeks and actually used the word, fat. Though she never said a word about the incident, weeks after Kesi returned home, she ate less. I could tell she was affected.

Consequently, I sprung into “save my daughter” mode and insisted on having a conversation with Nana. But as I reflect, I’m not entirely sure if I was protecting my daughter, or if I was just triggered. Was my twenty-two year-old self projecting my own past hurts onto the situation? Was I speaking to Kesi’s Nana or saying what I wished I could have to my own grandmother a decade prior?

My point for sharing this is twofold. First of all, I think we ought to do better about how we speak to and about our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and goddaughters. Whether they admit it or not, they look up to us as ways to be in the world. Because of that situation, I rarely comment on others’ weight gain, especially not my own daughters’.

Secondly, the more I try to be conscious about how I interact in the world, the harder I believe it is. While I do subscribe to everyone being him or herself, it also seems to be worthwhile to try as much as possible to first be aware of our insecurities and pasts, and then try as much as possible not to project those onto someone else.

I’d love to hear what you think.

 

22 Years and Counting

apple2Today I begin my twenty-second year as somebody’s teacher/professor.

Twenty-two years of convincing someone that what he or she is doing is just temporary and that anything can be done short term in order to achieve a long-term goal

Twenty-two years of being at least one student’s first African-American teacher/professor…still

Twenty-two years of helping people shift their thinking as they step out of the boxes in which others have placed them and sometimes shed or re-shape the boxes they’ve created for themselves

Twenty-two years of building and re-building the delicate teacher-student relationship because each student is unique, no matter the institution

Twenty-two years of counseling someone through the process of what it means to gain more knowledge because they didn’t realize critical thinking was an integral part of the experience

Twenty-two years of reminding students that they really can do it because sometimes we all need a nudge and reminder of our strengths

Today I begin my 22nd year in a profession that I pursued on purpose. Today I’ll influence someone’s future life…on purpose.

DADDY CONTRIBUTOR: Lennon Carlyle

Today, meet Lennon Carlyle, author of “The Uprising.”

1521808695783Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? It’s a fantastic way to encourage women to understand that all men do not have the same qualities or negatives. If my reality can benefit someone, I would be elated.

What is your father-daughter relationship like now? It’s distant in miles, yet improving within time.

If there is one thing you could tell your father what would it be?

I love you. I forgive you and I want our relationship to grow.

If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with ‘daddy issues” what would it be? Not everything revolves around your father. Just because he doesn’t see your value or beauty doesn’t mean you don’t have worth. Let the negatives of the relationship strengthen your mind and spirit. Remember, not every man is your father.

If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? I believe more than anything, you need father and daughter time. Be diligent in showing her how much you care, love, and treasure her. Build her up and stress to her that she can accomplish anything. Help her to evolve.

What do you hope your story accomplishes? No matter how badly someone treats you in life, whether it’s physical or mental, never let him or her break you. Try hard to find something positive out of the situation. The worst of times times can make you resilient and unstoppable. Hold yourself up and know that your mind is extremely powerful.

What are you working on currently? I’m writing short fiction erotica. It’s outside of my comfort zone, but if I don’t explore new opportunities how will I ever grow? I love a challenge and this is a thrilling one.

Lennon CarlyleLennon Carlyle is a freelance writer, raised in Georgia, where she currently manages an industrial equipment business. She loves meeting new people and hearing their life stories. Lennon and her husband just celebrated their ten-year anniversary.

You can follow Lennon’s blog or contact her at lennoncarlyle@gmail.com.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

Paperbacks are available TODAY! Get yours now in time for Father’s Day.

eBook versions of Daddy are available now!

Monday Notes: Agreement #2

A few weeks ago, a “friend” of mine read one of my FB posts, followed the comments, and then sent me this message via inbox:

You be so fake in your comments.

Or something like that. I can’t give a direct quote because after we conversed, I deleted the message. His unsolicited opinion bothered me that night. It stuck with me because of how I’d replied. Initially, I defended myself. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t being “fake.” It continued to irk me because I’ve worked so hard to be my authentic self no matter where I am, social media, in person, wherever. I’ve made conscious decisions to shine my personal light. Then, it bothered me because it bothered me. Have you ever felt like that?

It lingered in my thoughts for about 48 hours. By that time, I knew I had to remove him and his words from my consciousness. They were both taking up too much space in my mind. That Sunday night, I flipped through don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, until I found the one that fit: Don’t take anything personally.

If I see you on the street and say, “You are so stupid” without knowing you, it’s not about you, it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you’re stupid.”

img_3174After reading a few more pages, I meditated, sipped my lavender tea, and let go of the incident.

About a week later, one of the ladies from the book club I’m hoping to join reached out to me and said, “I like your spirit.” This comment elicited the opposite emotion. I was elated. Who doesn’t want to hear nice things said about her personality? And like I’d mentioned above, I’ve worked on portraying my true self. So, I was overjoyed that someone I’d just met noticed a positive trait.

But I had to remember agreement #2. It still applied. You see, Ruiz continues to explain that even if someone says something that you agree with, then there’s still no reason to take it personally. A person’s opinion, whether positive or negative, is based on how that person feels in that moment. Tomorrow, the same person might have something horrible to say.

don_miguel_ruiz.jpg

The first time I read this it didn’t quite click. After receiving two different opinions within a week of one another, it now makes perfect sense. Not only is taking other people’s opinions personally exhausting, it can also be an indication that you’re not secure with who you are. If I know that I’m an authentic person, with a great spirit, then others’ opinions should be neither denigrating, nor uplifting. They should just…be.

Let me know what you think. How do you deal with other people’s opinions of who you are? Do people offer opinions of your personality?

*Edited for Forgiving Fridays. Participate here: https://forgivingconnects.com/2017/05/05/todays-forgiving-fridays-i-have-a-question-3/comment-page-1/#comment-3373

Daddy: Motivation for Creating a Book

Summer of 1993 is when I became fully aware of my father’s abandonment. I remember the exact year because that’s when I started dating Dwight. That summer, he, my then best friend, Bobby, and I drove to Chicago for the weekend. I’d told my father that I would be home and that I was bringing these two important people with me. I wanted him to meet them.

That Saturday, I called and called, but he was nowhere to be found. I curled up in a ball in my great aunt’s back room and cried. I was twenty years old. Not only was I disappointed, but I was also embarrassed. I’d met Bobby’s parents a few months prior. Her father, though quiet, was in her life and supportive financially and emotionally. Likewise, I’d met Dwight’s parents, his father also seemed like a “normal” dad, making corny jokes and talking about his daily work.

All I wanted was for my father to show up when I came home and meet some friends. But it didn’t happen.

From that point forward, I was never sure how to interact with him, especially around made up societal holidays, like Father’s Day. Do I buy a card? None of the store-bought cards said what I wanted: thanks for being great the first sixteen years of my life. Wish we were closer. Hallmark doesn’t sell that one.

Maybe no gift and no card would send a stronger message. I mean it’s not like we’d spoken recently; he usually forgot my birthday, which was always about a month prior.

Most years, I’d opted for a generic card that said something like Happy Father’s Day. I’d sign it with no additional words.

This is one reason I felt motivated to create an edited collection of dysfunctional father-daughter stories. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who endured this angst. I really thought I was the only daughter sitting around a week or so before the holiday, wondering the best course of action for someone who’s supposed to care for you but doesn’t.

1521808695783I felt alone in these feelings, until I wrote and published The Transition. Afterwards, women confided similar discord with their own fathers, and somehow that was comforting. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was like being embraced by a big collective online hug.

And I wanted other women and girls to feel the same. I wanted them to know they’re not alone during a holiday that makes us face our dysfunction even more.

That’s why I put this anthology together, and that’s why the eBook released the day before Father’s Day.

Paperbacks can be ordered here.

Monday Notes: Update #2

Around the first week in May, I was contemplating applying for a job. The job was semi-perfect. It’s here in Jacksonville. It’s at a university. However, it is a bit of a stretch for my field. The job is for reading education, and really I’m literacy and English Ed, but I was going to try for it anyway. Maybe. I kept going back and forth about it, mainly because I’ve learned the hard way (repeatedly) not to make myself fit into a job that’s not for me.

WomenSingBookShot9bWhile I was stewing about the application, I got a call. It was from the editor’s assistant of a book where I have a chapter, All the Women in My Family Sing (which I’ve mentioned here before). She wanted to know if I would be willing to participate in a radio interview in Tampa. I could’ve sworn she said radio interview. But when she sent the information, it was for a television interview!

No matter what, my answer was yes because like I said, I rarely refuse opportunities. In that moment, I decided not to apply for the job. I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t be wasting my time fitting myself into another imperfect for me position. I should be preparing for something I’ve never done before, a prerecorded morning show interview!

NBC_interviewI drove nearly four hours on adrenaline and anxiety. Morning shows don’t give you questions ahead of time because they want you to naturally converse. So, from the night before, up until the host, Cyndi counted down, I was quite concerned about what we would discuss. Because it’s an anthology, it could’ve been about the book in general, my specific story, or how the other stories related to motherhood, because umm, it was a Mother’s Day episode.

Luckily, my goddaughter was there with me. We talked about other things, like the people in the green room and the process itself and that calmed my nerves.

During the interview, I learned a lot. I didn’t know that when they pan across the studio to other things going on, those things are actually going on while you’re talking! Like, there’s actually someone making waffles and another person creating little knick knacks and there’s even an audience! Sheesh! My nosey-ness kicked in high gear. But luckily there are editors and producers who cut away when I started staring at the waffles.

If you have four minutes to watch, then here it is: Daytime Interview.

 

Monday Notes: Update #1

headphones2May was a whirlwind for me, just…like…I…like…it!

So slowly, I’ll be updating you on what amazing things occurred during that month.

The first thing that happened is I was minding my own blogging business, and Nadine Tomlinson emailed to see if I was interested in being interviewed for her Storyteller Series! I rarely say no to new opportunities, so the next thing I know, we were talking like old friends on a Friday evening.

It’s more like a podcast-style situation. If you have about 45 minutes and enjoy that medium, then please be sure to follow this link and listen to my thoughts on relationships, The Unhappy Wife book, and creative nonfiction, in general.

 

Monday Notes: What is Love?

From the time I turned eighteen until I was forty-one years old, my father visited me twice. He rarely called. However, he used to always say, I love you. And when we were at his funeral, more than one family member made sure to reiterate the sentiment by pulling me to the side and whispering, you know your dad loved you. Two decades of inaction proved otherwise. If someone loves you, then, in my mind, they do things to show it. Although the dictionary shows that love can be a noun, more than likely when you love someone it’s the verb part, a series of actions over time, that lead you to a firm conclusion.

An ironic set of events have made me pause to think about love as a concept again.

My father’s wife, MJ was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d undergone a double mastectomy in April, but complications arose. Consequently, we spoke on the phone more as she recounted her life’s circumstances. Whether money or transportation, her daughter and granddaughter, who live in the same city, were not capable of helping her this time. I tried to support from the comfort of my home by providing Uber rides and American Cancer Society phone calls. Soon, I could tell this wasn’t enough. She needed someone present during an additional surgery.

After mulling for three days, I decided that my youngest daughter, Desi and I would go help. I didn’t want to, but I thought about how I would feel if I was undergoing major surgery with no one to support me financially, emotionally, or physically.

Desi and I drove five and half hours to Atlanta. The following morning, I sat and asked her home healthcare nurse pertinent questions that she was too distraught to consider. Later, we went to breakfast, and then I bought her groceries out of my and Dwight’s household money. Afterwards, I made her six meals and packed them in the refrigerator, so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. The following day, Desi and I drove her to the hospital and stayed for twelve hours of pre-op, operation, and post-op. Again, I spoke with the nurses when she was too incoherent to do so. We remained by her side until her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren arrived, around six o’clock in the evening.

LOVE_juneI was able to do these things because I saw each act as service to an individual who needed support. I saw her like anyone else who might need help in the situation.

But she perceived my actions differently.

“I appreciate all you did for me,” MJ said right before we left. “You know I didn’t even know if you liked me.”

“Awww MJ,” I replied, partly in disbelief that she’d continued to repeat a twenty-year narrative.

“Now, I know you must love me to drive all this way and do the things you did,” she said with certainty.

How could I tell her that I didn’t? How could I explain that I provided a service to her out of empathy for her circumstances? How could I tell her that I can perform a loving act without loving her? In fact, how could I tell her that I neither liked, disliked, nor loved her? She’s always simply been my father’s wife.

Well, I didn’t tell her any of that. I remained silent, wished her well, and left.

But here is what I’ve concluded (as of today). We tend to use the word love when really we mean something else. For example, had MJ said, “I didn’t know you cared about me, but now I know you do,” I probably would’ve reassured her, because I do care. Love, on the other hand, is a little weighty and requires more than two-days worth of kind acts to develop.

What do you think? What is love to you? Do you use love when you mean something else?