About three months ago, a high school friend sent me a picture I had given her during our junior year. On the back, I’d done as many high school students used to. I’d written her a personal message. In case you can’t read my writing, it says:
Even though you never call anyone, and never tell anyone anything, and never go anywhere with anyone: u still the homie!
Okay. Let’s take a pause to commemorate 20th century rituals, such as signing pictures!
Now, back to my point. When I read what I’d written over two decades ago, I laughed. How much had I changed from 1990? I considered this person a friend, and I still do, yet for some reason, I had to call her out on her non-friend like behavior. Sound familiar? It does to me. I’ve written countless blogs that focus on relationships and understanding how we treat one another within those relationships.
Based on what I wrote, it seems to have been my lifelong quest.
Reading what I’d written reminded me of a quote. Loosely paraphrased it says, it’s not so much that we need to find ourselves, as we need to remember who we were, or something like that.
I agree. Much of our childhood and adolescent years are spent becoming acculturated and acclimated to our surroundings. We learn what we can, cannot, should, or should not say, and in some cases, do. Initially, our parents take on the role of ensuring we’re properly socialized. Once we begin school and other activities, society takes over. Some of these lessons are explicit, like don’t swear in public. Others are implicit, like girls should be quiet and demure.
One lesson that stands out for me is from my mother. She would always tell me, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” She tried to instill some sense of etiquette to my tone. By my mid-30s, and after watching others’ reactions in conversations, I began to self-censor not only my tone, but also my speech, because try as I may, I can’t seem to say things with sugar or honey. And if someone was going to worry about how I said something, it was best not to say it at all. This lasted two years. For me, self-censorship causes a buildup of unused words, and that’s not good for my health.
I’m believing more and more that we are born knowing who we are and what we need to do. Like the paraphrased quote above, we just need to remember who, what and why?
Eventually, I found my way back to who I am. Blogging has helped. While I do edit words for grammar and usage, I don’t suppress my tone or what I want to say. Likewise, I never intend to hurt someone’s feelings, so in person, sometimes I pause or exhale before speaking. But I make sure not to mince words. Finally, I’ve accepted the idea that if you’re focused on how I say something, instead of what I’ve said, then maybe we don’t need to communicate. And that’s okay. Maybe you’ll find someone who says things in a manner in which you can receive the message.
So, what do you think? Do we change over time? Are we taught to fit in, which causes us to change? Have you had to re-learn who you once were?
“Shine your light for the world to see.” It’s a quote from a rap song that I’d heard decades ago (Mos Def). But I’m really feeling it after our D.C. book reading. Just like the previous two, this one was completely different as well. The Jacksonville book talk was more like a starter event. The authors had never publicly read their stories before, so the energy was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Though each writer’s voice was clear, it was quiet.
Three months later, we’d moved 345 miles north to Atlanta. Three women had read in Jacksonville, so they were a bit more familiar with expectations. Their voices were grounded, louder. This time the audience had changed. The energy was palpable in varied ways. Questions were about the writing process, as well as the healing process. How had any of us done this? This included forgiving our fathers for heinous shenanigans. This included writing our mini-memoirs for someone other than ourselves.
Seven months after the Jacksonville event, we convened in Washington, D.C. and everything had changed. Two readers were pros. Kotrish Wright declined the use of a podium. Instead, she used the space around her to give more of a performance act. Her voice rose and fell, like an experienced reader. Inflection was important for specific parts. Ishna Hagan read her narrative with confidence and poise. She stood in her truth, which seemed to give her power.
Tikeetha was a novice to this experience. But I couldn’t tell. She read her story with the ease of a famous author. Though her story is sad and heart wrenching, she managed to make the audience nod and laugh at all the appropriate times.
And finally, there’s me.
This time I felt like I was shining my light for the world to see. An attendee who had cried her way through a question and almost the entire reading thanked me for putting this together. She’d intended to find a way for her mother to heal from trauma and mental illness. Another woman recounted her own father-daughter situation. It was enough to be another chapter in our edited collection. She, too, admitted she needed to find a way to counter her childhood dysfunction. A friend of mine provided me with a list she’d brainstormed to broaden my reach: come to Richmond, VA and call her OWN network contact.
After this third reading, I feel like we’ve each come into our own. We’ve done much more than pour our hearts on pages for catharsis. We’ve demonstrated what love, forgiveness, grace, and healing look like. We’ve exposed ourselves in ways that neither of us believed possible.
“Umi said shine your light on the world; shine your light for the world to see.” With this project, we’ve shone brightly and come into our own. And we plan to continue in our own way.
The past 11 weeks, I’ve been busy. Remember when I silently reflected and meditated for 14 days? Remember when I said I needed to figure out how to generate more money? Welp, shortly after, I attracted several clients.
Since mid-June, I’ve edited 12 manuscripts. This means each week, I’ve pored over a different person’s dissertation or self-published book. While I’m grateful for the business, there have been repercussions.
My dry eye flared back up. About two years ago, the optometrist diagnosed me with this condition. To remedy it, I use eye drops; I only wear daily contacts (the kind you have to throw away after one use); and I take frequent screen breaks. Usually I can keep it under control, but staring at the computer, while reading 200-page manuscripts every week caused it to return. Sometimes this meant my right eye felt a little itchy and dull; other times it meant there was a bit of pain right behind my eyeball.
Writing was not a priority. This really bothered me. During the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to write. In fact, I’d created a goal to write a new piece and submit for publication every two weeks. This was impossible. It turns out that it’s challenging for me to read other people’s works, while writing my own. I don’t know about you, but I need time and space for the writing process to unfold. By the time I turned off my clients’ work and decompressed, I was tired and only wanted to sleep. This was a bit frustrating for me because I value writing above all else.
Reading blogs shifted to an even lower priority. I found myself not wanting to read as many blogs, which is unusual. Even when I’m on a social media break, I take at least one hour every day and read other bloggers’ material. But after editing thousands of words for hours, I didn’t want to read anyone else’s. It didn’t matter how inspirational, uplifting, or funny the blog was, I couldn’t make myself read for 60 minutes and meaningfully engage.
Editing 12 manuscripts in 11 weeks reinforced a few lessons:
- Know your priorities. While I know that priorities shift depending on the circumstances, I think that your main priority should always remain number one. For example, writing is important to me. I actually felt bad that I didn’t want to exert the energy to express myself, even though I had the words piling up in my brain.
- Know your limits. Prior to taking on so many clients, I already had a sense for what was reasonable for my lifestyle. The number is two. I can edit two manuscripts per month and maintain a sense of calm. Anything else is too much, and I won’t be wavering on that moving forward, unless I hire help.
- Be ready for what you’ve requested. I asked for an increase in income, and I received it. But I wasn’t necessarily prepared for some of the consequences. As a result, I’ll be fine tuning how I co-create my life because after all, I’m in charge of myself and my choices.
So, tell me…how have you all been? What’s been going on? Have you ever gotten a little more than you bargained for? If so, how did you cope?
Where does talking about women behind their backs fit into women’s empowerment? I was faced with answering this question for myself after three different circumstances occurred over the course of two months.
Situation #1 is a combination of many experiences. It usually starts in a group DM. One person may say, “Hey, did you know that Sally did blah, blah, blah?” And because we all know Sally, but Sally’s not in the group, a conversation and judgments about her may ensue. I have been known to either start this type of dialogue, participate in the conversation, or throw in an lol or appropriate gif.
Situation #2 is also a common one I’ve found myself in. Two women don’t know each other, but for some reason have crossed one another’s paths. I associate with both women. Sally does something Sue doesn’t like and because I know both, I’m listening to each share their dislikes. I may also interfere by throwing in a, “Hey why don’t you think about it this way” because I feel a sense of loyalty to both and I’m equally associated.
Situation #3 surfaces every now and then. Again, it begins with my knowing two women, who also may know one another, but aren’t necessarily friends. Sue asks me a question about Sally. Just for the sake of example, it could be something like, “Why does she always wear her pants backwards?” Because I know Sally and I have insight into why her pants are always backwards, I answer. I never tell Sally; however, I do secretly continue this defense of her and her backwards-pants wearing.
I’ve decided participating in any future, similar conversations is wrong. Here’s why.
Many of you know my overall goal is to raise women’s consciousness; however, how can I be raising women’s consciousness in one breath, while talking about women behind their backs in another?
I can’t. It’s out of alignment. And I won’t be doing it anymore.
From here on out, I will not be discussing other women in the confines of text messages, DMs, or lunch dates. I also won’t be listening to other women discuss and judge women I know (or don’t know). My new direct phrase will be: Let’s talk about all the amazing things going on in your life and what you’re doing (or something similar). And finally, if someone wants to know why Sally always wears her pants backwards, I’m going to suggest that they pick up the phone and ask Sally.
Women’s empowerment is about more than writing, blogging, or speaking engagements, where women share their wounds and heal. It’s about not creating more cuts for someone we each refer to as “sis.” It’s about the way we carry ourselves when no one’s looking. This includes private conversations.
Let me know what you think, if you can relate to either of these situations, or if you have another one to share.
From June 18th to July 1st, I decided not to communicate with people I know (and love). With the exception of my husband, two daughters, and a siSTAR video I’d committed to, I was silent. This included my not responding to text messages, DMs, phone calls, emails, and social media.
First, I alerted everyone I could through social media so that people didn’t think I was ignoring them. In this social media age, people’s feelings are hurt quite quickly if they don’t hear instantly from you. This worked for the most part. For family, like Grannie, who are not on these platforms, I simply left a message on her answering machine asking her to please wait until July 1st to speak with me, unless of course, there is an emergency. For others like my father, who sent photos of his grandson’s kindergarten graduation, I replied with the photo you see here. And for my cousin who called with news of their newborn baby, I begged Dwight to call him back so I could listen, but not respond.
Why, you might be thinking?
I needed time, space, and silence to disengage so I could hear my inner thoughts.
Recently, my sister gifted me with a numerology reading. In our conversation, the reader said, “Everyone isn’t worthy of your time.” That is one of the most poignant statements I’ve heard in 2019, and it really made me pause. Aside from thoughts about friendships, I decided to use my fourteen days of silence to assess the many collaborations and projects with which I’m involved. Will I continue with Project A, B, and C? Are these projects aligned with my personal mission? Even if they are aligned, are they worth the time/energy investment to continue? To make these decisions, I needed time, space, and silence.
Also, I wanted to focus on how I would generate extra money for the remainder of the year. Contrary to public belief, many professors do not make a huge salary. Like other professions, it is contingent on lots of factors: discipline, rank, and institution. Being quiet allowed me to think deeply about how to attract money and from where.
Along with these fourteen silent days, I also decreased my sugar intake. This isn’t new to me. About four years ago, I did a 21-day detox that excluded all sugars. This time, I followed the recommendation that women have no more than 25 grams per day. Initially it was challenging, and I hovered around 24-50. But overall, it was a success. When I remove sugar, my brain becomes clearer; subsequently, my thoughts and dreams are also lucid. And combined with silence, it’s like a veil was removed, revealing the direction in which I needed to travel.
Although I wanted badly to celebrate the birth of my cousin’s baby, and although it took everything out of me not to respond to email plans for our DC reading or to text Bree to find out how she did at the Daughters’ Lives Matter event, or to comment on blog posts, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be at everyone’s beck and call in each moment. It’s okay to tell people you need a minute…away, just for yourself. In this instant communication society we’ve created, it’s okay to say, hold on wait a minute while I get myself together.
Trust me…their good and bad news will still be there for you to praise or lament. Their worlds will not crumble. And, you my friend, may feel more healthy and whole.
In our last video, Kelley discussed her all encompassing identity, creator. This time, we discuss specifically, her and her sister’s baking business: Two Dough Girls. We also delve into her “why,” her opinion about African Americans owning businesses, and identity.
If you haven’t read Part I and II, then here’s a re-cap. I was a little hurt that none of my close friends had asked me how the latest book reading went.* As a result, I’d thought about it and concluded the following:
- I should be grateful for those who showed support in the moment and
- I shouldn’t be concerned with affairs of the ego.
My third conclusion is simple: Everyone is not a friend to me.
While it’s an easy lesson, it’s been a lifelong challenge to discern. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a friend to everyone. I treat people similarly. I don’t have hierarchies of distinction. For example, the friend I’ve known for twenty years will receive the same friendship and loyalty as the friend of twenty days. I’m cool with that. However, what I’ve had to learn, even in my late 40s, is that everyone is not a friend to me.
This was brought to my attention by my goddaughter and husband, with whom I had dinner after the book reading. My goddaughter suggested that some see me as some sort of grand persona, and because of that, folks I call friend might not realize I have the same needs as a ‘regular’ person, thus never creating a friendship. My hubby asked me to think about a specific friend. Why are you friends? Has she ever asked about what you’re doing? The answer was no, not really.
During my fourteen days of silence, I thought about this further, but on a grander scale. I call it a friendventory. (Do you like that word?) With my friendventory, I thought about all the people who I consider close. I asked myself two questions: (1) why are we friends and (2) how is the relationship symbiotic? I’m not going to use this space, time, or energy to name anyone specific, but I did develop three categories.
#1: We are friends because they need/needed help. I’ve developed quite a few relationships this way. People tend to come to me for advice because they think I know something. It doesn’t matter how many times I say you know what to do to put the onus of their lives back on them, they still ask. Likewise, because I like to talk, some sort of relationship tends to blossom. However, these people rarely ask about the happenings of my life.
#2: We are friends because we have common interests or like to be around each other. That’s it, right? That’s what friends are essentially. Whether we met at school or a job, there are several people I can pick back up with as if no time has passed. We have lengthy conversations about mutually agreed upon topics. Neither of us must explain what the other means; we nod in agreement at most things, and when there’s a disagreement, it’s not an issue. The relationship is comfortable and unforced. These people are my friends.
#3: We were only associates, not friends. Although it may feel like it in the moment, I’ve had to come to terms with the idea that for some people, the relationship never left the associate category. We may have met via some joint venture (e.g., work, school, writing), and we might even have pleasantries, which result in being friendly, but we are not friends. Ego and judgment aside, people in this category have shown me that they are not interested in being a part of my life or in developing a relationship. I would provide examples, but somehow, I think you all get the point.
*Since writing this but before publishing it, someone I consider a friend did text me and ask about the reading 🙂