Friendship and the Expectation of Support (Part II)

Yesterday, I shared how disappointed I was when close friends didn’t ask me how an important event went.* As I mentioned, I processed my feelings for several days. Meaning, I talked to Dwight about it, until every angle was exhausted; I removed myself from speaking words to anyone outside of my husband and daughters so that others’ thoughts didn’t influence my intuition; I lit some sage incense and meditated for fifteen consecutive days; and I journaled about the answers that came to me.

During meditation, I heard a very distinct message: Do not be concerned with affairs of the ego.

My understanding of “ego” comes from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (2005). Loosely summarized, he says that it’s the I, which we all develop, but which none of us really is. Tolle calls it “a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of identity” (p. 27).

Our egos are stories that we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. This can range from the type of mother you think you are to the type of co-worker you appear to be, good, bad, or otherwise.

I was steeped in my identities.

I am an author.

I am a writer.

I am friend.

I was swimming in my stories.

I am an indie author, who doesn’t have major names behind me offering marketing, etc. I need a different type of support. I’m a writer, whose main purpose is to raise consciousness by sharing my authentic self. Is this noticed? I’m a good friend, and if I’m a good friend to others, well then, they will be an equally good friend to me.

I’d gotten lost in my ego.

moon

Yesterday, I also said that my close friends were in their ‘life’s bubble’, but quite honestly, so was I. I was in my oh my god, I can’t believe we’re having another reading in a different city, like a book tour bubble. My look at me being a different type of indie author bubble. I was also in my people cried and began to think about their circumstances in a different way bubble. Is this what raising consciousness looks like? And in my good friends ask each other about important events bubble of judgment.

You might be wondering what I’ve done as a result of these revelations. I’ve returned to two things I’ve been working on the past five years: having no expectations and not judging others. Neither is an easy task, but I do want to clarify.

Having no expectations doesn’t mean not having standards for people. In this scenario, it simply means I shouldn’t have expected my friends to call or not call. Subsequently, if someone did ask me how everything went, then that’s fine; if not, then that’s okay too. Also, for me, not judging means not passing judgment on my friends’ actions. If a person doesn’t reach out and show interest, it doesn’t mean that they’re a “bad” friend; likewise, if a person does ask for an update, it doesn’t mean they’re a “good” friend.

So, this is my second conclusion: Identity + Story = Ego. Don’t be concerned with affairs of the ego. And stop making up stories about yourself and others.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my third conclusion.

*Since writing this but before publishing it, someone I consider a friend did text me and ask about the reading 🙂

PART I

Friendship and the Expectation of Support (Part I)

tarra_kgOn June 13th, I hung out with my friend, Tarra. We ate fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, and lobster brie omelets. We discussed our deceased mothers and newly found biological families.

Tarra is a singer and actress. She’d just finished a show and needed rest. I was preparing for the Atlanta reading and needed to calm myself prior to attending. So, we also spent time at the beach, running through opened doors and moving with the ocean’s waves.

Somewhere during the day, she confided that she was thinking about who wasn’t at her shows, who didn’t support, who didn’t reach out. She knew she should focus on who was there, who did support, and who made time for her. She admitted this was something she should work on.

I agreed. But I also added, “It’s hard.”

Two days later, we had the Atlanta book reading. Even though it was an awesome event, not one close friend reached out to ask how it was, not even Tarra. Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying. Friends did contact me. They texted to tell me about the terrible and wonderful happenings in their life’s bubble. They just didn’t ask about this very important gathering I’d been talking about for months.

Like Tarra, I began to think about all the close friends I have and why they wouldn’t simply text and say, how was the reading?* I started to text each one and ask him or her personally, but quickly tossed that idea. I really don’t like to ask people to be who I want them to be. I’d much rather simply be aligned in thought, action, and behavior. Plus, I knew it was something I needed to work on, not them.

After processing my emotions for several days, I came to a few conclusions. The first is, like my friend, I needed to focus on who was supportive and who showed care that day.

The first is my husband, Dwight. He is always there in some way. Even when he can’t physically be present, he calls, jokes with me to lighten my mood, and wishes me well. He texts or calls after every event and asks me how it went and how I felt about the outcome. I appreciate that.

img_0801The second is the group of women who made the event possible. Bree spent her time, money, and energy planning a successful reading. The other three women traveled from other cities and states to share themselves with strangers. In my point of view, this is miraculous, and it’s definitely not something they had to do.

The third are people who attended. I didn’t do a head count, but at least 40 people came. Included in the audience was my stepmother, stepsister, a former Georgia College student and her mother, and a blogger I’d met for the first time (shout out to Yecheilyah).

Though my feelings were initially hurt, reminding myself that I did have support that day has shifted my energy about the situation.

That’s my first conclusion: focus on who shows up in ways you value.

I’ll share my second conclusion tomorrow.

*Since writing this but before publishing it, someone I consider a friend did text me and ask about the reading 🙂

Monday Notes: Bobby

letterFor my birthday this year, Grannie sent me one of those white, over-sized UPS envelopes. It was filled with memorabilia from 1990-1991, the year I stayed with her. Among my ACT scores and college acceptance letters was also a handmade card from a woman who was my best friend in undergrad. Her name was Bobby.

As soon as I read it, I began to cry…real tears.

The card, a piece of 8 ½ x 11-inch paper folded horizontally, included heartfelt words about me that she’d written for my 20th birthday. She’d expressed how she couldn’t afford to buy a card but how she’d hoped this gift would suffice. Bobby ended the sentiment by saying that I was what she considered a good “friend.”

That’s what made me cry. Bobby and I were friends for a maximum of two years.

During that time, people mistook us for cousins or sisters. We had the same skin tone and haircut and we were always together, no matter what. When she found out I was from Chicago, she nicknamed me Brini, after the infamous housing projects, Cabrini Green. I dismissed the offensive association because that was all she knew about the city. Because she’d deemed me ghetto, she would sing the Sanford and Son theme song when I entered the room. And because I didn’t have a lot of friends in undergrad, least of all a best friend, I let her.

handwritten_noteBobby was there when I first met Dwight. We double dated one night, and she cooed as he pushed me on a swing, “Brini’s in love!”

She and I flew to Charlotte, NC to attend my cousin’s graduation. She, Dwight, and I visited my family in Chicago. I was welcomed in her Detroit home, where her mother would make gumbo from scratch and send bowlfuls back so that we wouldn’t be hungry.

We were so close that we thought we’d join a sorority together. Unlike Bobby, I didn’t read the application thoroughly. I began to hand write my answers, instead of typing them. Upon realizing my error, I then used Wite Out and typed over the bumpy sludge. It was a mess. I submitted it anyway. Unlike Bobby, I was unable to attend an underground Christmas party in Detroit. And, unlike Bobby, I botched my interview.

Winter semester rolled around, and a mutual friend stopped us in our dorm’s hall, fishing for information. “Bobby, I heard you were on line.”

I responded for both of us. “We’re not on line,” I confirmed.

“I haven’t heard anything about you Kathy. Just Bobby,” she said.

The decline of our relationship hit me in that moment. Bobby was on line; she was initiated into the sorority that semester, leaving our “friendship” in the past. I’d see her at parties or on campus donning her shiny paraphernalia with her new circle of sisters. We didn’t speak the remainder of my time in college.

***

notebookAbout five years later, after Dwight and I had married and had our first child, somehow Bobby and I found one another through email.

“I’m sorry,” she wrote, “I know Dwight must think I’m horrible.”

I don’t remember my exact response, but I know it wasn’t nice. 1999 was the last time we communicated. I thought I’d unleashed the hurt of the situation in that last email. I thought I was over it. But it turns out, I wasn’t.

I’m sharing this because I was shocked that over twenty years later, her handwritten card would trigger such emotions. Clearly, I hadn’t released the sadness of the relationship. I’d just buried it. And so it is for many of us. Sometimes we think we’ve dealt with something when really we’ve just repressed it and replaced it with a coping mechanism.

But this time, in May 2019, I figured out why I was so hurt by the loss of our bond. Four years before our meeting, my mother had died. Three years prior to our friendship my father had sent me to live with Grannie. I’d already decided that I wasn’t good enough to be loved and her additional abandonment solidified it.

Like previous narratives, I had to also let this one go. Bobby was the type of “friend” she was because of herself; it had nothing to do with me.

Today, I’m clear about that. Should I come across another memento representing our friendship, I’ll send out new energy by thanking her for her companionship and wishing her well.

***

If you’re wondering, I’ve also since realized that real friends don’t offer up nicknames associated with infamous housing projects and television shows centered in a junkyard. But I’ll save those lessons for another blog.

Monday Notes: “Mr. F*ckin’ Rogers”

About fifteen years ago, two women had befriended me. One of them had a child the same age as my oldest daughter. At the time, she’d given birth to another, by a man, whom she was no longer with. During our friendship, she’d started dating and married another person altogether. The other had five children by one man, to whom she was divorced. Having remarried, she and the last one of her children lived with her new husband, who she’d eventually divorce.

We would usually convene over one of their houses, sip alcoholic drinks, and discuss women things: sex, periods, men.

On one occasion, we sat around a dining room table, red cups in hand. They both complained about their relationships. I don’t recall the details, but I do remember chiming in with whatever was bothering me about my husband.

“You don’t get to say nothing,” friend two interjected, “not when you’re married to Mr. f*ckin’ Rogers.”

They both howled with laughter. I gulped what was left of my drink and sat speechless for the remainder of the night.

Long before I’d met these women, my grandmother had taught me to sit in silence, to ignore how I felt about my experiences. Nothing I said was important enough to add to any grown-folks’ conversation. And because I was always surrounded by adults, I’d discovered that nothing I had to say about living life was ever of value, even if it was my own.

That one moment exemplified why I was rarely vulnerable with specific people. When I was twelve, there was one best friend with whom I stifled feelings about my parents. Her mother had moved thousands of miles away from her ghetto Chicago neighborhood to be a hairstylist for celebrities in California. My friend was left to be raised by her grandmother. To her, the image of my life was perfect. What could I have to complain about with two loving parents, adopted or not?

Years later, after we’d both had children of our own, that same friend confessed, “We’ve known each other for a long time, but I don’t feel like I really know you at all.”

mask2It’s no wonder. I’d become a master at masking my true emotions about a thing, while hurt festered in the fiber of my being and manifested as inappropriate adult behavior.

This is what can happen when we devalue the voices of those around us. This is what can occur when we lack the ability to empathize. Those we claim to care about and to love may learn to either shrink their existence to make way for the largest voice in the room, or they may seek to be seen and heard in unhealthy ways.

I’d learned to do both, depending on the situation.

Today, however, I function in healthier ways with people whom I choose to interact.

With my children, I give them the space to give words to their emotions. If you talk to either one of them, you’ll notice they begin with the phrase “I feel like…” quite a bit. I believe it’s because I’ve always encouraged them to reflect and feel, whether I want to hear it or not.

With my friends and family, I listen to what people have to say. I never compare pain. If you’re upset by something I don’t understand or that isn’t of value to me, then okay. I’m not the emotion police. All feelings are important and have the right to be heard, no matter their size or subject.

With myself, I refuse to be silenced simply because my life is different than those around me. I know that different doesn’t mean less important. I don’t allow friends or family to guilt me for having things they do not. For example, just because you cannot find a happy healthy relationship, doesn’t mean I cannot discuss how being married has affected me.

Finally, I’m more discerning about the people with whom I’m aligned. This act alone has helped to create relationships that are more satisfying and symbiotic. In this way, I know that I’m participating in partnerships that are both valuable and valued, and by extension, so am I and what I have to say.

Monday Notes: New Mantra

I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.

“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”

We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.

Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.

My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.

Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.

When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.

“You want a party?” she asked.

“Yes,” I beamed.

“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”

biggest_fan_2So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.

I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.

But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?

Monday Notes: “That Could Never Be Me!”

“That could never be me!” Have you ever used this phrase? I have. I used to say it a lot whenever I’d hear about sexual abuse victims. I used to say it because I was molested by my own father. I’ll spare the details, but I will share this. As soon as my mother returned home from Wisconsin, I waited for my father to doze off in front of the television, and then sat on their bed. I told my mother what happened.

“I’ll talk to him,” she promised.

The next day, my twelve-year-old self needed answers. “What did he say?”
“He said he was testing you to see if you’d say something. It won’t happen again.”

And it didn’t. If it would’ve, I already had a plan. I was telling her mother. And if that didn’t work, then I was telling a school official, because even in the seventh-grade, I knew something was unusual and inappropriate about what he did. From that point on and in my arrogance, I declared, that could never be me whenever I’d hear about other victims who suffered such acts for years.

But recent allegations from MJ and Robert Kelly victims have me singing a new tune. Now, in conversation, I suggest to others to have compassion for victims and parents because that could be your child. You know what they say? You guessed it. That could never be me!

In fact, one friend stopped scrolling through his phone, looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “That could never be my kids. Kathy, that could never be one of your kids!”

teddy_bear
 Photo by serenestarts at Pixabay

I said this to him, and I’ll say this to everyone. Depending on how old your child is, you don’t know who your child is talking to right now. You don’t know what they’re doing. I stand by this because, unless you’re with your child twenty-four hours per day, then you really don’t know. And, from what I understand, children are typically sexually abused by someone close to them, not some stranger lurking in the dark, offering them candy.

 

Also, I’m sure none of us wants to think about this, but your child could literally be the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted teacher or coach. You…don’t…know, unless they tell you, which also may not happen.

A friend of mine recently found out that her child was molested at school when he was five-years-old. He’s nineteen now. She just found out. It’s not because she’s a bad mother. It’s not because she’s not had his interest at heart. It’s because things can occur that we, as parents, don’t know about.

My intent here is not to scare anyone or to have you hover more into helicopter mode. My point is the next time you hear about an alleged sexual abuse victim, maybe you could shift your perspective and think about it as if it were your child, or your sibling’s child, or your best friend’s child. Because even if you think it couldn’t happen to you, it could happen to someone you know, and that person might need a bit of compassion.

Monday Notes: 5 Suggestions Before Asking Someone to Follow Your Business on Social Media

A few months ago, a friend asked me to follow her on social media because she’s re-branding and doing new things. Of course, I obliged because she’s my friend, and you know that’s what some friends do in the 21st century…support to increase the person’s social media platform in the beginning stages.

Following her, however, has prompted a few pieces of advice about maintaining a social media presence as a business or nonprofit:

Know your social media handle. As soon as she asked, I clicked on my Twitter icon and proceeded to look for her.

Me: Is it this one? @friend19_74?

Her: Oh, let me see…nope, nope, not that one. Try @friend1974.

Me: Is this you?

Her: Oh, naw, naw. Try @1974friend.

Me: So, this looks like you because your picture is here.

Her: Yes. Yes. That’s the one.

twitter_marchKeep your social media current. Once we found the correct account, I scrolled through, as is customary for me to do with strangers. I want to see what the person has posted recently. I want to get a feel for what they typically share. You know. Do they troll people? Do they engage in Twitter arguments just for the sake of being seen? Do they say mean and inaccurate stuff about celebrities or news? When I scrolled through my friend’s page, her last retweet was from seven months prior. Even at the time of my writing this, her last tweet was two months ago. Why would I follow a business that tweets infrequently?

img_9480
my baker cousin’s cupcakes

Make your social media relevant. My friend’s business is very niche. Let’s say for the sake of example that she sells cupcakes. When her IG photos pop up in my feed, there is information about cupcakes in the Bay area. If I don’t live there, or even on the West coast, then seeing cupcake info doesn’t interest me. But maybe if you post about those yummy cupcakes you just made, or link to a vegan cupcake recipe that I just have to try, or post a video of yourself making the cupcakes, then at the least, I’ll want to double-tap, and at the most, I’ll look for the website, friend or not.

Choose one site you really enjoy. Nowadays, people will have you to believe that business owners should be actively engaged on every social media site available. If you’re Nike or something, maybe. But, if you’re a small startup, I don’t think this is true, and I believe it’s caused people to burn both ends of the candle, so to speak. For example, a friend suggested I use Periscope when it first launched. I never did because I knew I didn’t have time to learn the inner workings of yet another site. But also, I was comfortable participating in what I was already doing.

Consider this, if you’re not really a photo/video person, then maybe you shouldn’t have an IG account. If you have more to say than will fit into 280 characters, then forgo Twitter. And if you despise FB so much, then let it go. Your social media presence will thrive when you engage in ways that you value, not because someone told you it’s a business requirement.

Do you all have any other advice for business owners who use social media?

August 12th

August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.

WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.

“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.

I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.

We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.

“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.

I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.

img_4677We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.

Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:

Tarra by herself.

Tarra and me.

Tarra and John.

John and me.

Tarra, John, and me.

I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.

A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.

“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”

Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.

As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.

We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.

I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.

“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”

“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”

A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”

She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.

st_johns_river_artworkBy now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.

“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.

Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.

img_4725We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.

My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.

I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.

Monday Notes: An Interview with Lady G (Episode 1)

Hi Everyone! It’s Women’s History Month, so I thought it was the perfect time to release a series of videos that I’ve participated in with two of my close women blogging friends. We call each other SiSTARS!

The first three interviews are intended to help you get to know Lady G a little better. If you don’t already follow her, be sure to do so at seekthebestblog.com! And if you already do, then you understand why Michelle and I had to interview her 🙂