Monday Notes: Therapy Every Day

“You want your friends to do therapy,” my goddaughter said. “And that’s too hard.”

            I had just shared the details of a failed friendship, and my goddaughter’s words made sense. You see, I’ve spent the last eight years in self-therapy. I allow my intuition to lead me to a new concept, then I research who the “leading authority” is on that idea, and then I read his or her work. For example, attempting to understand my oldest daughter and her choice of boyfriend(s), led me to the concept of codependence, which led me to Melody Beattie’s work, which led me to read The New Codependency. Consequently, I began to understand myself and how I’d embodied similar traits.

            This is normal for me. I not only read about concepts that reveal a deeper understanding of myself, but I also apply them. When I realized I’d lived much of my young adult and adult life sans boundaries, I read about and learned how to create and enforce them, so I could show up as a healthier version of myself. This is a part of how I live, so I can function in new ways.

            The problem is, as my goddaughter pointed out, everyone is not like this, and sometimes, it impacts how I relate. A lot of times, I’m having a conversation that is normal for me, but difficult for others. In essence, I’m asking others to dig deeper than they care to, than they usually do. I’ve asked friends to think about how they interact with me in relationship, and especially for those my age, it’s quite a challenge. I’ve had friends who’d rather end the relationship than to stop and figure out how to engage in a better way or to consider how I may have felt in situations. This is too hard, a friend recently told me. The this to which she referred was understanding that she never initiates a phone call with me.

            For a while, friends’ responses felt personal. Each situation seemed as if the person didn’t want to see my point of view, or as if they believed that what I was saying was ridiculous—as if I’d asked them to do drugs in the alley. They’d cross their eyes and fumble their words, until we were no longer communicating effectively. Now, I realize their reaction wasn’t personal. People are made up of their childhood and adolescent backgrounds and how they’ve learned to handle situations from those foundational times. Many people project, instead of reflect.

            And, as my goddaughter told me, “Most people don’t want to do what the therapist says, much less read something on their own and follow through with that.”

            “Hmmmph,” I said. “That’s interesting. I do therapy every day.” Therapy is not just for the therapist’s office. Just like yoga isn’t just for the mat, and practicing religions isn’t just for the church, synagogue, or mosque. It’s a daily practice and part of my life. Meaning, I will look at myself several times over in a situation, before I accuse someone else of being the problem. I’m always willing to take ownership, and subsequently, do better, if my doing better is a requirement for maintaining a bond.

            But again, everyone isn’t like this. Everyone isn’t interested in examining their life or taking steps to improve. My goddaughter reinforced something else the day we talked. “It’s okay if they don’t,” she said. “Everyone’s different.”

            You can only change you is an idea I consistently reiterate on this blog, and I stand by it. I will continue to do “therapy every day,” with a primary goal to improve myself. However, I also know from experience that changing me for the better also changes those around me, whether they consciously know it or not.  


Monday Notes: Intentionality

Intention is what you intend or plan to do. Intention is doing something on purpose.

When my daughters were younger, I made sure to not only spend time with them separately, but also together. Although they are the same gender, they have distinct personalities, and one way to honor that I saw them as individuals, was to plan different activities with each of them. For example, my youngest loved plants and animals, so if we visited a new city, I’d take her to a botanical garden. My oldest likes to eat, so we frequented restaurants. The relationship I developed with them (and that we continue to have) was and is intentional.

Being intentional takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. The relationship I currently have with my husband is an example. We wake up each day with the intent to be married and committed to one another. We spend every Sunday together: we choose a breakfast spot; we grocery shop; we have conversation. If one of my husband’s friends wants to do something with him on a Sunday, he declines; I do the same. We are dedicated to cultivating and maintaining a relationship. We are intentional with this commitment.

In addition to my daughters and spouse, I’m intentional with friends. One way I’ve done this is to be as honest as possible. If I see the relationship is faltering, then I say something. I want to ensure that friends know I care about our friendship, and if any way possible, I’d like to continue being friends. In my opinion, a friendship you care about is one where you can raise important issues, such as why there may have been a lag in communication or why you haven’t seen the person. Next, you can intentionally create space for the friendship to shift, grow, or dissipate.

Another way I’m intentional with friends is scheduling time to talk or be with them. Sometimes, my life is busy. Other times, I’ve built in time to be quiet and rest. In between, I am intentional about with whom I talk to and when. Most of my friends are similar; they are busy. And if we want to engage in authentic conversations, we schedule a chat. I have a standing Zoom “appointment” with a friend I’ve known since first grade. My sister, who I consider a friend, oftentimes has to schedule weeks ahead to speak with me. I have a host of friends who have to look at their calendars, so we can choose a date to meet in person and have hours long conversations. We are intentional about interacting and communing.

But everyone doesn’t see the value in intentionality.

A friend recently proclaimed scheduling time to speak as “weird.”  “I schedule an appointment to go to the doctor. I don’t schedule an appointment to speak to friends. I can just call you in the car or whenever.”

This reaction isn’t frequent, but when it is, I assure people who disagree that it’s not weird, and we’re all different. While some see being intentional as something cold and unfeeling, I see it as the opposite. In my opinion, it makes the person that much more special. I’d much rather know someone carved out a piece of time to listen to me, than to be yelling at drivers, their kids, or practicing lines for a show (as one friend used to do), while I share the latest details of my life. The latter seems like fitting someone into existing distractions, while the former seems, well, a bit more intentional.

I know this is a matter of perspective, so let me know what you think in the comments.


Monday Notes: It Was the Worst of Times

The world feels hella weird right now. Do you feel it? Is it just me? I partly blame the pandemic. It seems to be where things explicitly went awry on a global scale.

Politics, aside, living through a pandemic was weird and traumatic, but mostly traumatic. I’ve commented on a few blogs and other social media that I feel as if we all have collective anxiety (and maybe depression). During the height of death and disease, many of us suppressed our fears with booze and sourdough bread recipes. Do you realize that some of us didn’t even stop working? We Zoomed our way through, while people suffered and died with a new virus. Now, many of us are here, pretending we didn’t experience collective trauma: returning to school, working in person, and yes, like my husband and me—traveling.

It’s just weird.

As I write this, Hurricane Ian is headed toward Florida, the state where I live. In general, hurricanes don’t worry me. We’re in a city where we rarely see anything beyond a tropical storm, with high winds and rain. However, this hurricane feels different when juxtaposed against a pandemic backdrop. I mean, first comes the pestilence, then the natural disaster, right? I’m no bible scholar, so I’m not sure. But I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed toward religious prophecy. It’s the implication of the disaster that’s disconcerting, not the disaster itself. No matter the outcome, I’m sitting here writing an essay about how it feels, while Dwight works.

That’s weird, right?

Speaking of Florida, I’ve been meaning to tell ya’ll about how busy our governor has been. Since the summer, he’s disenfranchised teachers, women, and professors. His latest feat was accepting immigrants from Texas and flying them to Martha’s Vineyard. Normally, I would be outraged, but I don’t have the bandwidth. Politicians are stereotyped as those who don’t really care (democrat, republican, or otherwise); however, this seems a bit far. It seems common sense to me that physically using people as political pawns is unethical and shouldn’t be debatable. It’s weird that this isn’t a baseline of agreement, that there are people out here defending or deflecting the governor’s actions.

It’s also weird that I’ll be turning 50 next year. I’m a big birthday celebrator and party person. To that end, Dwight has something brewing…on an island. Pretty cool, right? Well, it would be if death and destruction weren’t constantly looming. The island on which we’d intended to celebrate is underwater: the media keeps showing a bridge floating in the ocean, separating the people and their access to the mainland. It feels selfish to plan a milestone birthday during these times, but you know, if the earth is still intact, I’d love to be sunbathing off the Caribbean. So, we’ve chosen a different place, one that isn’t in hurricane alley. This is weird. I know.

Do you know there’s still a war going on between Russia and Ukraine? Did you know there’s something going on with the United States and Taiwan that could result in a war…with China? Did you also know Nostradamus predicted the “Great War,” which philosophers associate with World War III? It’s supposed to occur in 2023…for seven months.

Weird.

I started to write “3 Ways to Live in Uncertain Times.” This is an inspirational blog, after all. But I couldn’t, mainly because I’ve only found one way. Every day, I wake up, look around, check the socials to make sure QAnon followers didn’t start an American civil war in the middle of the night or that the world didn’t fall apart, in general, then I start my day with goals, as if we’re not living in a pandemic, while facing natural disasters in every corner of the world, as we dodge multiple global wars. It’s probably a form of suppression or willful ignorance. Either way, I make plans, as if there’s a normal future ahead. Then, I repeat.

Weird, I know.


RESOURCES:


Monday Notes: Resisting Social Norms

The other day, I went for my biannual haircut. The difference is I’ve been growing my gray hair out since 2021. It’s blossomed a lot faster than I’d anticipated, adding about four inches of snowy white strands on either side of my head, and a salt-and-pepper effect from my crown to the nape of my neck. 

“I saw your pictures on Instagram,” my stylist said. “And I was like, ‘oh, she must done decided to let it all go.’” 

I laughed and assured her that was exactly what I’d decided. 

“It’s been harder than I thought,” I told her. “One time my husband looked over and asked, ‘are you just gonna have a big gray afro?’ But you know…I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do with it just yet.” Then, I confided, “I almost re-dyed it.” 

“Hmmmph,” she replied.

Usually, my stylist finishes my cut and dramatically swirls me around to face the full-length mirror. This time, though, she turned the chair slowly. “Yeah. It’s all just out there,” she said borderline dismayed. “You gotta do something: cut it, color it, braids.” 

“Do I?” 

“Yeah! You gotta give your husband something to look at, glrl. He don’t wanna see that!” she said, referring to my reflection.


People say a lot of things to me. I imagine it’s because I’m open to authentic conversations that lend themselves to a safe space for others’ internal thoughts. When these bursts of opinions occur, oftentimes I’m quiet. I don’t know what to say because so much is going through my head. That’s what happened the day my stylist told me I needed to give my husband something to look at.

I wanted to tell her that her perspective was based on society’s predisposition to bend toward the male gaze. Women are born into a system where we we’re taught to worry about wearing clothes to attract a man, but not wearing clothes where we appear like so-called sluts; female athletes adhere to dress codes that represent the 19th century, instead of the 21st, and still cater to wearing athletic clothing intended to appeal to men; as children, we’re taught to follow K-12 dress codes that teach girls their bodies are something to be policed because boys don’t know how to control their hormones; and we’re implicitly taught to dye our hair as we age, so that we can be more appealing…to men. 

But I was in a hair salon, not a lecture hall, so I said this, instead: “Luckily, I have high self-esteem.” Then, I paid my bill, shared a final laugh, and left. 

However, the thought that another woman, who is a licensed beautician, would suggest to me that the only way to be beautiful is to create an illusion with a cut, color, or braids weighed on me for a couple days. 

Here’s why.

Her comment implied that I’m less desirable, because I have gray hair. And that’s ridiculous. I have a whole-ass body attached to my hair. Since wearing my hair the way it naturally grows out of my head, I’ve also done the following with my body: straightened my teeth, embraced wearing high-waisted bikinis, and worn clothes that fit my personality. Also worth mentioning, my blood pressure, HDL, LDL, A1c, and weight are low. Lastly, I think I look pretty good.

Do I sometimes want my hair to be the reddish-brown color with which I was born? Sure. Gray hair does shift your appearance, but regardless, I’m me. Shouldn’t I love me—the way I look? Shouldn’t I appreciate how I look today, not long for the beauty of yesteryear? 

I don’t want to be too hard on my current stylist. I have nothing against her personally. She—like many of us—is a product of our society. Resisting social norms is hard work. Social constructs abound. Someone makes “the rules,” and we follow them. That’s why I started dying my hair in my thirties. Whether it was family, friends, or the media, I’d learned that gray hair was for a specific decade of life, even though the average age to begin going gray is in your 30s. So, when I found my first strand, I followed suit. I professionally dyed my hair so much one year, it fell out in clumps. You know who advised me to stop over-processing my hair? No one, not even the stylist I had at the time. Women, especially professional beauticians, condone covering up signs of aging, while simultaneously promoting the loss of ourselves and our own sense of beauty. It’s the norm. 

But I wish it would stop. 

I wish we could be happy just being our natural selves. I wish we would stop worrying about impressing men or other women. I wish we could look in the mirror and love what we see, no matter what. 


Monday Notes: The Power of Story

Shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I received several notifications from writing platforms. These publications had an urgent interest in “personal abortion stories.” Suddenly, hearing about women’s lived experiences was integral. I understand why. 

Stories are important. 

It’s one thing to be marching around in your knit, pink pussy hat; it’s quite another to share why you feel the need to. 

Sometimes, marching is easier than telling the person who disagrees with you that, you too, had an abortion at one point in your life. However, I’d argue that the narrative you share is what will actually create empathy, and eventually, a nuanced understanding of an issue.

Personal story is why the #MeToo movement was partly successful. For the first time that I know of, not only women, but also men were discussing definitions of sexual harassment. Is giving someone a compliment okay? Can I ask my coworker out on a date? If someone says, “yes” to sex, and then “no,” what should happen? I believe the only reason we were able to openly have conversation is because your favorite celebrity, your mother, or your friend shared a #MeToo story, and you offered a compassionate ear.

But personal stories are hard to share. 

I don’t want to speak for everyone, but it seems we’ve collectively bought into a similar message: life should be lived in shame. Sometimes, we do it to one another. For example, anytime you suggest for someone not to openly share what happened to them, you’re encouraging them to live a secret life of shame. And so we keep things from one another, but to what end?

I guarantee you know at least one woman who has had an abortion, and I’d bet money that at least one person explicitly or implicitly told her to hide her story. Subsequently, women who’ve chosen abortion live with the following: shame for getting pregnant, shame for getting an abortion, shame for not choosing motherhood, or D: All of the above. 

Even those of us who lived in homes supportive of our choices still navigated a bickering country that saw women who had abortions as another type of human being, separate from society and meant to be shamed, shunned, and lectured. We were seen as people who committed shameful acts. We were called murderers. In our own ways, each of us wore handcrafted scarlet letters, even if the only one who saw that red “A” was us when we looked in the mirror. 

So I get it. Choices can create isolation, and sharing about them can feel as if you’ll be further ostracized from society. 

But stories are important. Shared narratives make something less of an anomaly. 

So, I was thinking…What if instead of scaring and shaming women, we actually provided them with our own sex stories: stories about contraception, stories about sexually transmitted infections, stories about sex without love, stories about sex with love, stories about pregnancy, stories about birth, stories about miscarriages, and stories about abortion. The stories about abortion would be encompassed in stories about sex, not as fear tactics or moral instruction, but as an option for what could occur, should you need it.

Personal abortion stories should’ve been a part of our sex conversations since 1973. Now, it seems major publications are seeking narratives as a reactive form of storytelling. The conservative, Republican Supreme Court has “gone rogue,” so we need abortion stories—NOW! 

Sheesh! Reactivity to issues seems like an immature and exhausting way to be in the world. 

Personal abortion stories should have been part of our lives over the past fifty years. Perhaps, if more women discussed the commonality of our experiences, then we’d be less likely to allow a court, men, or anyone else to take away our rights. But as long as we’re tucking our lives away in the crevices of our closets and acting as if we know not of what those other heathens speak of, well…we get where we are now. 

Please don’t mistake this for victim shaming. It just seems that at some point, we have to stop living in shame for fear of what others, especially those who look like us and may have had similar experiences may say. Maybe if we would’ve shared “personal abortion stories” sooner, we would have a different national narrative. 

Or maybe I’m living in la-la land, we’re all powerless, and Roe v. Wade was always going to be overturned. I’d like to think otherwise, though. I’m a writer, after all, and believing in the power of story is what gives me hope.


Monday Notes: 3 Things I’m Tired of Talking About

Even though I’m not in the States, the way the world is set up, I’m still in tune with the news, and let me tell you … recent events have left me tired of recycling the same conversation over and over.

Domestic Terrorism against Black Lives

The Federal Bureau of Investitgation (FBI) defines domestic terrorism as violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. 

Therefore, when Payton Gendron not only killed ten people in Buffalo, who were mostly Black, but also left behind some type of white supremacist manifesto, it should’ve been a no-brainer that his acts were the literal definition of *domestic terrorism. What I’ve noticed, though, is that Black people seem to understand domestic terrorism and the consistent role it has played in American history. Other people, not so much. 

There’s always some person who wants to wait until all the evidence comes out, and even when all the evidence comes out, that person wants to take a meticulous look at how each piece of evidence may not really be racist, and even if they somehow agree that this incident is domestic terrorism against Black people, then they’ll only agree that it’s this one incident, not an historical pattern. And I’m tired of talking about it.

School Violence

Speaking of domestic terrorism, I’m also tired of discussing school violence in America. But I suspect conversations centered on the Uvalde incident will not last long. 

Remember Columbine? That was 1999. We were shocked. Though we have made strides in police officer and teacher preparedness, I mostly remember the US arguing about gun control. Remember Sandy Hook? That was 2012. It was a traumatic mess. Schools have done a great job of decreasing bullying, which Ron Avi Astor attributes to a decrease in overall school violence. But even then, we argued about whether it really happened, there were a bunch of lawsuits, and there was no national shift in legislation. Remember Parkland? That was 2018. It, too, was traumatic. Know what happened? There were more lawsuits, and because it’s Florida, a hasty bill was passed allowing teachers to be armed. Luckily, school districts disagreed. Still, there was no US legislation to protect public school students, faculty, or staff.

With this one, I’m tired of talking about school violence as if history hasn’t shown us things will worsen. Why do I have to convince someone there’s a problem, whether it be a mental health one, a gun control one, or a school violence one? In my opinion, the reason school violence hasn’t been resolved is because it is not a priority for elected officials. You know what is a priority? Banning critical race theory, redistricting every ten years, and drumroll please …

Abortion

Though I’ve decided to continue sharing part of my story and other people’s stories as a way to raise awareness, I’m tired of talking about abortion. Abortion has been a topic for half a decade, not reproductive rights and not women’s health, but abortion, specifically. You know why? (Aside from patriarchal ideology), it’s because it has remained a priority for elected officials, who want to advance a conservative ideology, and as the current Florida governor has shown, when elected officials prioritize something, that something gets all the attention in the world, sans what the majority of constituents actually want or need.

For example, even though the majority of US adults agree that abortion should be legal, no matter the circumstance, states continue to push for the opposite. Kind of like school violence, why do I have to convince you that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, whether you, the Bible, or the church agree? The only thing I have left to say is I hope there’s someone left to revolt when the government comes for something you have the natural right to do.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk. Is there anything you’re tired of talking about? Let’s put it in the purge pile in the comments, then let us go effect change that will protect all US citizens.

*Officials are considering a terrorism charge for Gendron


Monday Notes: A Post-Mother’s Day Message for the Motherless

Dear Motherless Child, 

I see you.

If you’ve just lost your mother, then a holiday, like Mother’s Day may seem strange. You’ll want to acknowledge that you, too, had a mother, good, bad, or otherwise. A woman birthed or adopted you and provided you with unconditional love. But now you’re in a different club. You may walk by aisles of Mother’s Day cards, their pinks and reds taunting you. You may feel inclined to buy one, forgetting you have no one for whom this would be appropriate. Or you may feel as if someone should buy you a card as recognition for your loss. Wouldn’t it be nice if Hallmark made a greeting card that began—I know it’s Mother’s Day, and you just lost yours…? But they don’t. The most you may have is Mother’s Day at church where you’re encouraged to partake in a new tradition, wearing a white carnation, symbolizing your mother’s death

Women who possess a nurturing gene may try to mother you. Their gestures will stem from kindness. Their heartstrings will lengthen and tug and wrap tightly around you, until you can’t breathe. But they will fail, because they are not your mother. As Mouse, a seven-year-old fictional character from the book Looking for Hope says, “there’s nothing like your own mother.” She’s right. Only the woman assigned to you knew the lilt in your voice when you were angry or excited. Only your mother knew when you needed a hug or extra encouragement. It is normal to have mixed feelings about others’ good intentions. Feeling grateful for other women who’ve served as proxy is understandable; wishing you had your own mother is also valid. The latter doesn’t make you ungrateful; it makes you sad and grieving. And that’s okay.

If it’s been a few years since your mother died, then the compassion some showed may have worn off. Friends and family may even suggest that you should “get over it,” as if losing one’s mother is akin to a bad breakup. However, even bad breakups can be hard to “get over.” Sometimes, bad breakups last years in the cells of your body and crevices of your brain. Shouldn’t losing one’s mother take a bit of time? Still, you’ll learn to have compassion for these people. They don’t get it. They don’t understand. Though we may suspect, not one of us knows how we will feel when our mother dies. Even if it’s an expected event, prompted by a terminal illness, or even if you hated her for trivial or grandiose reasons, no one understands the bundle of emotions that may bubble to the surface, threatening to erupt, until it happens. So, offer a smidge of grace for those who think you should “get over” your mother’s death. They simply don’t know.

Losing one’s mother, no matter your age, is not easy. But here’s what I hope for you. I hope these words are comforting. I hope you’ve found a space where other motherless children convene. I hope peace fills the void. 

Love,

a motherless child

RESOURCES

Motherless Daughters Online Source

Motherless Daughters

Blog Post about Motherless Daughters Retreat

Abortion: A Return to Pro-Choice

I usually don’t post on a Thursday, but given the times we live in and circumstances in the United States, today it’s necessary. You may have read this personal essay already. If not, it has been re-published by Tangled Locks Journal to raise awareness and support organizations, like Planned Parenthood. Comments are turned off here and there. If you’re interested in reading personal stories centered on abortion, then please follow Tangled Locks Journal; they’ll be featuring essays as long as women’s rights continue to be disenfranchised.

Tangled Locks Journal

My father taught me about sex when I started my period. We sat on the loveseat, where he explained how menstruation worked, a banana balanced on his thigh. I suspected this was my mother’s idea, although she and I never discussed sex or women’s bodies.

My father explained bleeding meant I could now get pregnant, if I ever had sex, and that it was my responsibility to avoid such circumstances. A condom would do the trick. He pulled one out of his pocket, ripped open the small package, and showed me how to put it on the banana, a mock penis. I suppose he thought it appropriate to cram three separate topics – sex, safe-sex, and periods – into one conversation because we never revisited either again. But at ten years old, I couldn’t comprehend what fake penises and condoms had to do with the pain in my lower abdomen…

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Monday Notes: 8 Titles of Blogs I’m Not Going to Write

Frequently, I think of a title of an essay or a blog post, but then I don’t really have a lot to say about it. I’m doing a little spring cleaning of my phone and thought I’d share these with you before I delete them foreva.

Women and other Objects

Women used to be treated as objects. I’m talking about literal objects. For example, it is common in many cultures for the father to be “in charge” of his daughter and then when she marries, the husband is “in charge” of her. One clear is example is found in this article, 18 Countries where Women Need their Husband’s Permission to Work. I was going to write something about this, but honestly, I didn’t feel like researching more facts to prove my underlying point, which is that the United States isn’t too far from treating women like other countries do.

CliffsNotes and Sound Bites

I’m sure by now you know that people will argue on social media about something that they haven’t fully read or even viewed. Well, people do this offline, too, and I’m kind of tired of it. I realized this while reading Will Smith’s memoir. I found that people really thought they could hold a conversation about Will because Jada hosts the Red Table Talk, where she shares personal stories. However, Will’s book includes additional information from his point of view. You cannot discuss Will (the book) if you haven’t read the book. You just can’t. I liken this to when people used to read CliffsNotes, instead of the actual novel. It’s never the same.

The Price We Pay for Entertainment

I recently watched We Need to Talk about Cosby, which is excellent, by the way. Prior to viewing, I already believed (if that is the right word) that Cosby drugged and raped women, so I didn’t watch for confirmation. I viewed this doc to see if there was another angle to the story, and there was. But afterwards, I thought about other famous men who’ve been accused of sexual deviancy (i.e., R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, etc.). There’s always this societal conundrum where we don’t want to give up our beloved entertainment seemingly at the risk of protecting or believing women. And I don’t get it. I don’t have to watch The Cosby Show ever again, and he didn’t even violate me. I can’t imagine how the women he actually hurt feel when they see his face on television.

Banning Critical Race Theory

The first time I learned about critical race theory (CRT) was during my doctoral program in the early 2000s. However, while I was teaching high school English, specifically AP and Dual Enrollment, students read about and responded to texts in ways that demonstrated CRT. For example, I showed the documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning, about Brenton Butler, a Black Jacksonville teenaged boy who was falsely accused of killing a white woman. Students discussed and wrote about structural racism, the justice system, and their rights as teenagers should this happen to them (because after all, it happened in their city). When I hear about Florida banning CRT in public schools, so as not to “distort historical events,” I want to laugh because clearly there’s a misunderstanding about what CRT is, and I want to cry because academic freedom is being stripped right in public view, but no one seems to care.

Anything that isn’t Nurtured Won’t Grow

Relationships, talent, whatever you can name, if you want it to blossom, then you have to nurture it.

Corona Chronicles: Why COVID is Still in the United States

This was going to be a criticism of everyone, including myself. Here’s a running list of what I’ve observed:

  • Not wearing a mask
  • Wearing a mask below the nose
  • Taking a mask off to sneeze
  • Loose and confusing restrictions
  • Allowing K-12 schools to be open without mask mandates
  • Not washing hands
  • Wearing a mask in the restaurant when you walk in, and then taking it off while you’re sitting down eating and socializing
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people, inside or outside
  • Having rules for your establishment and not enforcing them
  • Spreading false information. My daughter works at Starbucks. According to her manager, if you have COVID, you can come to work three days later, because you won’t be able to spread it to others. Let that sink in. Your latte may be coming with a dose of something unexpected.

The American Dream and other Fairy Tales

This was probably going to be a critique of the myth of meritocracy and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, but I don’t remember. I stand by the title, though.

Emotion Words

The next time you interact with someone, remember this: everyone doesn’t know how to use their emotion words, so be kind.

As usual, please feel free to comment on any or all of these, or if you’re a writer, feel free to tag me if you’re feeling inspired to take on a topic 😉


Monday Notes: Understanding L❤️VE with Will Smith, bell hooks, and Gary Chapman

Recently, I read Will Smith’s memoir, Will, bell hooks’ All about Love, and Gary Chapman’s, The 5 Love Languages. Here are three common themes each book reinforced about my understanding of love:

Love is deeper than what we’ve learned.

Each author makes clear that love is more than what we were implicitly shown and explicitly taught.  

As a Black, feminist scholar, bell hooks’ message is that what many of us have learned about love is based on the fantasies of men, which is rooted in patriarchy. Therefore, she uses a more in-depth definition from social psychologist Erich Fromm. Fromm says that love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” That’s deep, right?

Gary Chapman is a pastor, and much of what he writes is rooted in Christianity and scripture. For example, he alludes to Genesis 2:24, but he clarifies that “becoming one flesh … did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way.”

Pop culture icon, Will Smith describes the evolution of his relationship with Jada as something that grew to be more spiritual. They’ve publicly call each other “life partners,” which implies something more than riding off into the sunset with a beau.

As someone who’s been married for twenty-five years, the idea that love is more than what we’ve been fed resonates. My marriage to Dwight is the most transformative relationship I’ve ever had. He’s been instrumental to my self-evolution. Through our relationship, I have learned what it means to love someone and to be loved.

What you learn in your family of origin shapes how you view love.

The idea that our families teach us how to love is not new; however, each author shares a nuanced approach to this concept.

bell hooks’ says that “to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” She also suggests a family’s love doesn’t always feel like love because the love we receive from family is primarily care, which is just one component. Many of us do not learn each characteristic of love from our families. Do you see how this can pose a problem for future relationships?

Gary Chapman also explains that many of us have learned how to show love based on the family in which we were raised. For example, my mother showed love by giving gifts. She expressed this love language by throwing parties. I always had two birthday parties—one on my actual birthday and another on the weekend with either family or friends. Guess what I thought love was for a very long time? Guess what my primary love language is?

Will Smith’s memoir brilliantly illustrates how we pass on generational patterns of showing love, whether they worked for us or not. His abusive father showed love through a work ethic and the result of the work ethic, making money, which provided safety and shelter. bell hooks would call this care, and Chapman would label it acts of service. Will then showed that type of love to his wife and children, and even though their family looks hella successful, it backfired; his wife and children didn’t feel loved.

Love is a choice.

Is love a choice? My experience makes me say no.

I maintain that I didn’t not choose to love Dwight any more than I choose to breathe. As soon as we met, our union was solidified. Gary Chapman found this concept so important he devoted an entire chapter to it. He calls this beginning, in-love phase “a temporary emotional high” and “on the level of instinct.” Everything after that is where he says the “real love” begins.

Cool. Chapman agrees with me. We don’t choose to be in love. But maybe we do choose everything after that, which maintains love?

bell hooks says it’s important to acknowledge love as a choice as a way to take ownership of our feelings and actions. She says, “to begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.”

This makes sense to me. Choosing to love or to be loving makes every act intentional, not some willy-nilly, out of control situation.

A story from Will Smith’s memoir that shows how love is a choice was about his daughter, Willow. Willow asked him this paraphrased question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He implied that every argument, every misunderstanding asks this question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He goes on to explain that we show each other the answer by our actions, by the choices we make, which reveal how we choose to love one another.

So, yep. I get it.

We can say, “I love you” a million times, but when it comes down to specific actions, are we choosing to be loving toward the person we say we love? The answer is the difference between someone feeling loved as opposed to just hearing words.  

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I know I got a little theoretical, but hey. It happens. Let me know what you think about love.