Guess what? Remember My Mental Health Matters series from last year? Well, I entered it into the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palms Literary Awards blogging category, and it’s made it to semi-finalist status!
Crossed fingers that I’ll make it past this point.
Here are the articles that are up for review:
- Mental Health Matters (Acceptance PART I)
- Mental Health Matters (Suppression)
- Mental Health Matters (Codependence)
- Mental Health Matters (Learning to Be Intimate)
No matter the outcome, I want to take this moment to personally thank all of you for continuing to rock with me on this blog. It brings me joy.
More often than not, I have a little bit to say about a lot of things. I thought I’d share a few with you.
If we treated our girlfriends half as well as we do men, then women relationships might improve. Three years ago, I visited a friend in Sarasota. After the four-hour drive, I did as I sometimes do, stopped by her home first to pick her up for lunch. When I got there, she’d just finished her workout.
“Are you about to take a shower?” I asked, giving her athletic gear a once over.
“No! All I did was walk,” she said.
“If I was a man, you’d take a shower,” I replied.
She agreed but didn’t shower, and the above thought was born.
Why do we (sometimes) get all dolled up for the opposite sex but show up any type of way with our girlfriends? Is it comfort? Value? Societal teachings? For me, how I arrive depends on the event, not necessarily the company I keep, but in general, I show up freshly washed, with a nice outfit no matter if it’s the love of my life or a good friend.
If you love someone, then you’re implicitly saying you accept who they are. You can have acceptance without love, but you cannot have love without acceptance. For example, Dwight fully loves and accepts who I am. He encourages me to be myself, even if that means as he says it, “cussin’ a —- out” because he knows I’m fully capable of that behavior. But that doesn’t stop him from loving me.
People mistake how love and acceptance can show up, though. I have a cousin who lives with a mental illness. I love her like a sister, and I accept this part of her, but because I know her mental health can be overwhelming, I carefully choose when and how I will interact and be with her. Sometimes we forget we can choose how to be in people’s lives, and these choices have nothing to do with how much we love or accept someone.
Why is it we want our partners to have character traits we don’t? Why is that? I know people who desire vulnerability but have trust issues. I have friends who want a specific level of intimacy but don’t seem to know how to cuddle, show affection, or open up. I wonder if, when we seek a romantic partner, we’re seeking to fill a void of something we think we don’t have.
When Dwight and I first met, I wasn’t as self-aware, and consequently, I didn’t know how to be myself. He, on the other hand, seemed very confident in who he was and clear about what he would and wouldn’t do. Did I unconsciously seek someone who possessed the very things I needed to develop? I also wonder if helping one another to grow is more of the point of relationships, as opposed to racking up and celebrating years of companionship…like a prize. Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.
Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.Tweet
Let me know what you think.
My first blog post was “Why I Refuse to Judge Any Mother.” In it, I describe my observations of a friend’s mother, juxtapose her mother with how I felt about my own mother, and then explain how I hope my own daughters will see me as a mother—when they eventually begin to reflect.
Out of all the texts I received, I appreciated my journalist friend’s the most.
“Kathy, this is good,” she said. “You have what they call voice. In grad school, they used to always talk about how you should have voice in writing. You have it.”
Whenever I write, I want the reader to experience exactly what I was thinking or feeling.
But how do I do this?
I may tell you something that goes against what you’ve been told before:
I pretty much write how I talk and think. Even that last sentence is an example. I promise you a grammar program will tell you to remove “pretty much” because it’s unnecessary, but I left it in because that’s how I talk and think. If we were together, and you asked me how do I write? I’d say I pretty much write how I talk and think.
What is also helpful is my brain’s duality. I was raised in a family that valued so-called standard English, so I grew up learning the syntax appropriate for news personalities and job interviews. However, I was also raised on the west side of Chicago, which by all accounts is the hood. I quickly learned how to switch the verb “to be” around or to insert a cuss word so as not to be accused of talking like a White girl. I’m not special. Many Black people know how to codeswitch in this way.
What this means for my writing is I can create a sentence that appeals to White folks and Black people…or should I say Black folks and White people. You see how just interchanging those two words—folks and people—shifts meaning and tone?
I also want my writing to be accessible. I want to have a conversation with you. In order to do that, I have to write how I would talk if we were together having a latte, green tea, or Caipirinha. So, sometimes I stop, and address you directly. Maybe I’ll add a question, like what do ya’ll think to invite you into this conversation we’re having, while also throwing in the Southern dialect I’ve acquired from living in Florida for over two decades.
Most of my in-real-life friends who read my blog say, “Girl, I could hear you saying…” And that’s what I want.
To reiterate, if you’re concerned with developing voice in writing, then you have to determine what “vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax” you want to use and why. Only you know what that is.
And remember, voice, kind of like personality, cannot be imitated because it’s something only you possess. (Full disclosure: I sat here for five minutes flip-flopping between the word possess and own).
Do you worry about voice in writing? Does it matter?
Have you noticed there’s a push toward vegan and plant-based living, or is it just me?
Let’s start with the obvious: food. My friend, Jermaine has been trying to convince me that vegan is the way to go for a decade. He’s encouraged me to swap ground turkey or beef with Morning Star Farm’s Crumbles. The ingredients include food like soy, water, and carrot juice concentrate. To be fair, I’ve never tried it, because I’m not into the fake meat. But if I did, this seems like the way to go. What I don’t understand is sometimes plant-based patties like these include chemicals I can’t even pronounce, like tertiary butylhydroquinone and ferric orthophosphate. Not to mention, they’re still processed foods. I’m no dietician, but it doesn’t sound healthy to me. And even though many plant-based burgers include pea protein, this protein substitute isn’t considered a vegetable, which is consistent with what I’ve noticed—plants nor vegetables seem to be a main ingredient in plant-based or vegan foods, but rather the juice or extract from plants and other sources. Although research has shown there are health benefits to consuming meat-replacements, it just sounds weird to me to swap out one processed food with another.
Over the past two years or so, I’ve also noticed vegan and plant-based living has filtered to things like cleaning products, such as Mrs. Meyers. The purpose of using plant-based cleaning products is plentiful, ranging from being biodegradable to being cruelty-free. However, sometimes these products include harmful synthetic chemicals for fragrance, leading to seemingly toxic effects. Like a plant-based burger, some of these ingredients include words I cannot pronounce, like phthalates or octoxynols. Huh? I’m not sure about you, but I’m all for saving animals from being experimented on, but I’m not down with sacrificing something like my reproductive health to do so. I’m no martyr and it sounds like a win-lose situation.
I’m all for saving animals from being experimented on, but I’m not down with sacrificing something like my reproductive health to do so.Tweet
Finally, let’s talk vegan/plant-based clothing. Clothes like TOMS have existed for over a decade. But I’ve noticed more companies cropping up or jumping on the vegan clothing bandwagon, mainly in the form of vegan leather. According to Harper’s Bazaar, vegan leather is a material that mimics leather, but is created from artificial or plant products instead of animal skins. From what I’ve read, plant-based clothing can be made from chemicals, like polyurethane, or plants, like pineapple leaves. Some companies use fish skin, and they can’t be labeled “vegan,” but rather an animal alternative … which ends up being another animal.
All of this has my head swimming, and here’s why:
I tend to always think about the unintended consequences. For example, we all enjoy our cellphones, but somehow, we’ve created a negative situation for honey bees and disrupted the ecosystem. Similarly, I wonder what we’re doing to our bodies and the world with our vegan and plant-based alternatives. Are we ruining our bodies by eating processed “vegan” food because we don’t know what the real effects are?
I’m not a medical doctor, but I read a lot for my own edification. Here are some suggestions that seem to make more sense:
- Read labels. Just because it says “vegan” or “plant-based” doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for you.
- Know definitions. There’s a difference between a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based meal, especially when it comes to burgers. For example, a Beyond burger, black bean burger, and a veggie burger are completely different.
- Eat vegetables. There are thousands of healthy vegetable-based recipes that require real food. They fall more into the vegetarian category.
- Consume less. Don’t buy more food than what you and your household can eat.
Point number four probably requires its own blog post. While I think of how to expand the
“consume less idea,” let me know if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a staunch meat eater. What do you eat? How do you maintain your health in such confusing times?
*Information presented is a combination of blog, magazine, scholarly articles, and my opinion.
In the United States, there seem to be two choices: you’re either young, or you’re old.
When you’re young, you’re hella attractive. You have lots of energy and the latitude to make so-called “silly” choices—in music, in relationship, and in the overall living of life.
When you’re old, you’re hella unattractive. If you’re “brave,” you let your gray hairs grow wild and speak your mind like a toddler, but more often than not, the elderly are depicted as being crazy and forgetful pains that society either tolerates or ignores.
Well, what about people like myself, who are middle age? Where do we fit?
Kind of like my generation (X), I noticed we don’t fit anywhere.
On the one hand, I blame pop cultural and preformed societal views. We’re too old for skinny jeans, but not old enough for a Mumu. Too old for the club, but not old enough for the senior center. Too old to “start over,” but not old enough to retire.
On the other hand, friends and family tend to limit us. For example, if I decided to do a TikTok video for the Touch Down 2 Cause Hell challenge, eyebrows would raise. In fact, I’ve had people question why I even watch and know about these social-media challenges. I’ve never asked, but I surmise they think I’m “too old” to be aware. Based on the wide-ranging TikTok video demographics, I know this isn’t true. Anyone can lip sync and dance. But I do think there’s a reason why we’re so impressed when an over-fifty person twerks on beat. It’s seen as an anomaly.
Because I like to play contemporary rap music in my Jeep as loud as possible, my sister once called me a twenty-year-old forty-six-year-old. Maybe I should be like the phlebotomist I met who blasted the smooth crooning of Anita Baker’s love songs, or perhaps, I can mirror one of my favorite bloggers and deem only R&B from the seventies and eighties as respectable. Just kidding. I’m good with the music I prefer; however, I think others believe I’m “too old” to be listening to what I do…how I do.
If that isn’t enough, I have a thirty-something friend who has referred to one of her forty-year-old friends as “old and crusty.” She’s also admitted that she fears growing older and putting on a few pounds, possibly looking different than she currently does. There’s the other friend who has described her daughter as “cute and young,” while grumbling about how said daughter isn’t “like us…old” (and I assume not cute). And finally, there’s the friend who recently left me a birthday message deeming both of us as now “old,” because we’re approaching fifty.
It makes me tired. I’ve never spent so much time announcing that I’m not old or emphasizing that I’m getting oldER.
<insert big ole sigh and eye roll>
Let me leave you with this final story: A few years ago, one my cousins partied with me in New Orleans. He’s the type of person who stays on the dancefloor until the club closes, and this night was no different. He took up so much space with his moves that party-goers started screaming, “Go Old School! Go Old School! Go Old School!” in unison. It was like a scene out of a movie. He be-bopped around, sweat pouring down his face, shirt drenched. Then, he did it all again the next night.
Why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-age lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?Tweet
I’ve frequently thought about that night. Aging is something we’re all doing, every moment, but proclaiming to be old is quite another thing.
I’ve wondered why my cousin couldn’t dance his heart out without being labeled “Old School?” Why couldn’t he just be a human being having fun in life?
More importantly, why can’t we recognize there are more than two types of people? Pun intended—why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-aged lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?
Let me know what you think.
Here are some other articles from bloggers who discuss aging:
- Old and Ugly
- Woman 5.0
- After All These Years
- Looking at Aging with the Glass Half Full
- Written Today during My Writer’s Group
- Age, Age, Age!