22 Years and Counting: Falling in Love Intuitively

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

I’m glad I fell in love in my youth.

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t follow a 90-day rule.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Notes: Notifications

One of the best decisions I’ve made this year is to turn off my notifications. This has been life changing for me. Warning: What follows is not satire.

I first had the idea to turn off my notifications when I began preparing for the new academic year. You see, every year on August 1st, I spend between six and eight hours creating new videos, revising my syllabi, and updating documents. Usually, I place my phone face down on the desk, set my timer, work for an hour, and then check social media on a break.

But this year, I’d read that even if you place your phone face down, then it’s still a distraction. It’s better if it’s completely out of sight (full article here). I wasn’t willing to leave my phone in another room, even if the other room was in my house, but it did occur to me that I could silence it a bit more.

img_7597That’s when I turned off all of my social media and email notifications.

The brain is a funny thing. When I took my break, I looked at my phone as usual, but not seeing the little red dots made me not want to click on any of the icons. Don’t laugh. I’m being pretty transparent here. I couldn’t believe I had been a slave to those dots and associated numbers all…these…years!

The week that I turned off my notifications brought on a new sense of focus and discipline. Although my new routine only lasted seven days, it did shift the way I use my phone when I’m supposed to be working. I still post primarily in the morning, but during the remainder of the day (if I’m busy), I check social media less frequently. Instead of popping in every hour, I typically wait until the end of the day to read, scroll, and comment on any and everything.

img_7579I was so excited I thought I’d share this with the social media community and my youngest daughter. Her response? Uh, yeah. Your notifications go off like every two seconds so I’m sure that would be helpful.

Teenagers. I’m hoping you all won’t be as dismissive.

Let me know how you function with your devices. For example, Kat, over at Maybe Mindful participates in #SocialMediaFreeSunday, which might be more do-able because it’s only a 24-hour period. How about you? Are you a slave to those red dots like I used to be? Do you take breaks?

Monday Notes: Projecting

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

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

I was 125 pounds and a size six.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Monday Notes: Being Christ-like

When I was 16 years old, I asked my Grannie if she’d heard what the preacher said. Whatever it was had confused me because it was illogical. It made zero sense.

“Oh, Kathy,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’re not supposed to actually listen to what he says. You’re supposed to make your grocery list or think about the week, or something like that.”

And so, I learned that going to church is ritualistic. It’s a centuries old past down tradition for some, where going through the motions is sufficient. This is not a blanket statement, but I’ve noticed that this is how many operate.

Being Christ-like is least of some people’s concern.

That’s my earliest thought of how baffling religion seemed. My next memory is when my father became Deacon Gregory at Starlight Baptist Church, off 113th Street in Chicago. I was in my mid-20s. He was proud. His wife was proud. His stepdaughters were proud.

When my family and I visited, parishioners beamed with more pride.

“Your dad is such a great man! He’s such a good deacon! You must be proud!”

img_3080I smiled and shielded my thoughts. I haven’t seen this man in two years, and if I wasn’t here now, then no telling how many more years would pass. I let them hold on to their beloved deacon. He seemed to be doing more good for the church than with me.

Were his actions Christ-like? Perhaps with them, but not with me.

My wonderment with religion continued into my 30s where I found my own sense of purpose and meaning for life. It shifted into spirituality once I recognized the universality of all religions. There are certain principles inherent in each one.

But I couldn’t let go of how people just seemed to go through church motions.

For example, when I suggested to a friend that she stop judging another person, she responded as if I was crazy. She replied as if not judging was some nutso idea that I’d developed from the crevices of my brain.

“Do you mean stop judging in your head or do you mean stop judging out loud, like don’t say the words?” she asked.

I wondered if she’d ever asked her preacher to clarify what he meant when he said don’t judge.

Instead I replied, “I mean at all. What right do you have to judge someone else’s choices or decisions?”

She went on to describe her understanding of my suggestion. She’d stopped giving her opinion about her sister’s life because she realized it was her sister’s life and there was nothing she could do about it.

Exactly.

compassion+godly+woman+dailySimilarly, this thought crept back into my head when people began to judge Kanye West so harshly after his alleged breakdown. I wrote about this already, so I won’t re-hash. However, that post wasn’t about a so-called crazy rapper. It was about how once again self-proclaimed Christians are sometimes the first to be least compassionate. They are the first to call someone an asshole. They are the first to condemn someone to dark places.

They are the first to become defensive when I bring it to their attention.

Like the time when I asked this FB question: What’s the point of going to church if you treat someone like crap?

My question, as always was intended to promote thought and conversation. But I could tell that some people seemed offended. Wounded.

Answers ranged from “To grow stronger in Christ” to “We all fall short.”

It confused me. I thought if you were growing stronger in Christ then you might be doing things that are Christ-like. Christ cared for the poor. Christ hung out with prostitutes. Christ washed people’s feet and spread love.

Well, according to the Bible anyway.

Over 25 years later, I realize some people must have gotten the same advice my Grannie gave me. Maybe they’re all making their grocery lists.

 

 

*RE-Defined: Thanksgiving

Saying, “thank you” after someone handed me a gift used to be my ultimate expression of gratitude. That’s how I was raised. Once I had a family of my own, my husband and I encouraged similar behavior for our own daughters. Make sure you say thank you we’d sing in unison. I thought it was a common cultural practice. As a result, I began to reprimand others for not making their children thank me for birthday or holiday presents. Things had gotten out of hand. Don’t get me wrong. There is significance in thanking a person when he or she hands you something. In fact, I still believe it’s a gracious response. But somehow my concept of gratitude was limited to just this act.

I needed a gratitude overhaul.

After careful soul searching, I figured out the problem. I was seeking gratitude when I should have been living in a spirit of gratitude. But how? How does one achieve this? I decided that one way was to send fewer material items and provide more authentic expressions of appreciation to people who had impacted my life. I decided to be gratitude.

The process was simple.

I chose a month and then told one person each day how grateful I was for him or her being in my life. Loved ones felt compelled to return the favor. As a result, it became a sort of gratitude exchange. My intention was to make them feel valued. But they also wanted me to feel equally loved. This even and immediate trade happened with all of the people that I contacted, except my goddaughter, Kotrish.

When I told Kotrish that I was grateful for her presence, this young lady’s response was, “Thanks. That was unexpected.” My old self wanted to judge the reply. But I remembered the purpose was to appreciate others, no matter the reaction. I accepted it and continued on.

So, the month of gratitude ended. Christmas had come and gone. A new year had begun.

The memory is still clear. I had just returned home from work. Waiting on the dining room table was a salmon-colored envelope addressed to me. Inside was a matching salmon-colored thank you card. Kotrish had handwritten a note filled with ten separate thank-you statements. I cried. It meant so much to me that I carried it in my inside purse pocket for weeks. The blurred blue ink shows how much I’ve held it. Its tattered edges reveal how much I have opened it. I thought this would be the only card.

But I was wrong.

Her testimonials continued. For the next year, she sent four more handwritten thank-you cards every other month. Each one is different. Each one is heartfelt. Each one is better than any other gift I could ever receive from her.

I know it is customary to exchange store-bought presents during this time of year. But perhaps you can gift your loved ones with an additional item. Maybe this holiday season, you can offer an expression of gratitude. Jewelry will fade and clothes will soon be outdated. Telling others how much you value them? Well, that could last an entire lifetime.

*This was originally published in Natural Awakenings November 2015.

Pamela from The Unhappy Wife book

Pamela was the last wife that I’d interviewed. My plan was to have 13 women’s stories, but by the time I’d actually spoken to everyone and written each narrative, I was worn out. Twelve was enough.

unhappy-wifeWhile Pamela’s marriage includes similar tropes as the previous women, I was happy to include her story because it was about infidelity from a real woman’s point of view, something that isn’t always depicted or discussed in media. Additionally, Pamela had no remorse for committing the act, and that was a part of the adultery narrative that had to be told.

Concept: At first I was going to only focus Pamela’s story on her mother and how she influenced Pam to give up on college and get married. But as we continued our conversation, she not only revealed her adultery, but also told me it helped her as a person. I knew then her story had to be about more than simply her and her mom’s relationship.

Likewise, I wanted to provide a counter narrative to how society views affairs. There are three ideas about cheating that I’ve noticed: (1) it’s the worst thing that can happen in a marriage; (2) it is an irreparable break of trust; and (3) it’s something only men do. I thought Pamela’s story would shape a different conversation.

Let me be clear. I’m not trying to condone cheating. I’m just saying that it’s time to expand the narrative, especially as women take on different roles than they once did in the past.

Commentary: I believe Pamela felt bad about herself long before marriage. It began when her mother crushed her university dreams. And then, like a lot of women, post-pregnancy weight added to her insecurity. On top of that, she relied so much on Reggie’s degrees and income that his unemployment added another layer of disappointment.

By the time Kurt entered the picture, she all but invited the escape. This is how some affairs occur. They begin with an insecure woman being noticed and paid attention to by another man. In this case, Kurt uplifted her, something that her mother didn’t seem to do. Kurt also had the money to pamper her and he accepted her body the way it was at first. According to Pam, Kurt was a Godsend. Without him, she would still be living in despair.

Pam’s story showed my overall message with this book:

  • Know yourself.
  • Love yourself.
  • Be yourself.

Pamela didn’t know herself. If she did, then she would’ve been able to determine if going to college or getting married was a better path for her. She didn’t love herself. If she did, then she wouldn’t have ended up in Kurt’s bed, seeking love and attention through his admiration and wallet. She wasn’t being herself. She had assumed an identity, wife and mother.

What did you all think about her? Was she wrong for cheating with Kurt, even if it did lead self-discovery? What about overbearing mothers? Do you think parents should guide their children so much that they influence their life’s path?

unhappy-wifeOne more thing: My editor said this story was the best in terms of writing. I suspect it’s because it was traditional. It has a clear beginning, middle and end. The ending is nice a neat and tied with a bow. Readers tend to like that. What do you think?

If you haven’t ordered or read The Unhappy Wife yet, there’s still time! We have one more section to discuss, The Committed Wife. Next month we’ll start off with Darlene, mmmhmm, the preacher’s wife.

Miss Sharlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeMiss Sharlene was the 11th woman I’d interviewed. She invited me to sit in her living room and listen to her stories. For four hours, she described each and every marriage in detail. Here was a woman, old enough to be my own mother, outlining over 40 years of marriage to three different men: an adulterer, an alleged drug dealer and a drug addict. For much of our conversation, I sat with my mouth hanging open. The remainder included laughter and a lot of mmmhmmms.

Concept: With Miss Sharlene, I grappled with re-telling each marriage. Did readers need to hear about each man? Ultimately, I figured that’s what would make her story different. The book didn’t have the life experience of an older woman to demonstrate how one could fall in and out of love and continue to be unhappily married over and over again.

Like many of the women, Miss Sharlene sounded as if her husbands had done something to her. But surely, I thought, she must’ve learned something about herself with each of these unions. So, I asked her one question in order to prompt self-reflection. What advice would you give to younger women? That’s when Miss Sharlene provided me with lessons:

  1. You have to learn a person before you get married, but learning a person happens on a daily basis.
  2. Just cause you get pregnant from somebody does not make him your man or your husband. It makes him your baby’s dad.
  3. There’s no perfect person. We as women are not perfect. We have imperfections. But the thing is, we’re looking for perfection in a man. And that’s where we go wrong.
  4. We can’t be in a relationship when the person feels like we are his savior. You can’t save a person.

She actually gave me seven lessons. I wrote these verbatim in the book, but placed them at strategic points so that they seemed as if she had applied them to each of her marriages.

Commentary: At the time of our conversation, Miss Sharlene was two years newly wed to her fourth husband. I was shocked. Was she a hopeless romantic? Was it religion and the bible that kept her seeking marriage? Maybe it was her age? I didn’t ask her any of these questions because our interview was already lengthy.

But this came to mind. It’s easy to judge Miss Sharlene, or any woman for that matter. When we read about someone who’s been married 3-4 times, it seems obvious what the “issue” is, even when the men and relationships seem different. But none of our so-called challenges are ever apparent to ourselves. They can be though.

We have to be willing to look in the mirror and face what’s there. Change cannot happen without self-reflection. We have to be willing to admit our backgrounds have not only affected us in the past, but also shaped who we are in the present, including what types of relationships we attract. And ultimately, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make, whether conscious or subconscious. Otherwise, we’re doomed to be stuck in a cycle, same relationship, different man.

With that said, I included Miss Sharlene in the Detached Wife section because she seemed to be disconnected, not from her husbands, but from the reality of her self.

unhappy-wifeQuite a few readers have told me this story was their favorite. What did you think about Miss Sharlene?

Next month we’ll be discussing the last wife in this section, Pamela. Be sure to order your copy and catch up so you can join the conversation!

Side note: Many thanks to Mek over at 10000hoursleft.wordpress.com for the featured image.

♊44 Lessons♊

 

Today is my 44th birthday! You might remember this from last year. I’ve added a 44th lesson: 

fall
Royalty Free Image
  1. Pay attention to nature. 
  2. Some friends don’t last forever. 
  3. Physical life doesn’t last forever, but death will continue to surprise you.
  4. If you don’t like the life you’ve created, then make steps to create a new one.
  5. Be yourself. 
  6. Love yourself. 
  7. Be nice to people you don’t know. 
  8. People will let you down. Learn how much letdown you want to tolerate from any one person.
  9. Learn when it’s time to let go.
  10. Learn when to hold on. 
img_1003
Change. ©2016. K E Garland.

11. You always have a choice.

12. No one owes you anything.

13. You don’t owe anyone anything.

14. Sometimes friends act more like family.

15. Be honest with yourself and others.

16. Kids are not a do-over. They are individuals with their own experiences.

17. If you want more love, compassion or empathy, then give more love, compassion or empathy.

18. You can’t make people like you.

19. It’s never too late to grow.

20. Change is inevitable, whether it’s biological or spiritual.

IMG_3299
Change2. ©2016. K E Garland.
21. Be grateful for all the so-called bad stuff that’s happened.

22. Apologize.

23. Accept apologies.

24. Folks will fill in the blanks of your life AND make up their own stories about it; so what?

25. Mistakes are inevitable; try anyway.

26. Institutions look out for themselves.

27. You will attract people and experiences that reflect how you feel about yourself, whether you believe that concept or not.

28. Treat people the way you want to be treated, even if you don’t think they’ve done the same.

29. Nothing is finite.

30. Recognize how you feel in situations.

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Crescent Moon Love. ©2016. K E Garland.
31.You can’t blame your parents forever.

32. Wisdom doesn’t always come with age.

33. Listen to your children. For a long time, they are a reflection of you.

34. Don’t try to convince people that their belief system is wrong, stupid or inaccurate.

35. Fear nothing.

36. Know yourself.

37.One way to avoid manipulation is to be clear about who you are and what you want.

38. Judging does not equal caring.

39. Treat the homeless as you would your own mother.

40. Exercise so you can continue to move your body in ways you enjoy.

41. Learn something. But figure out if you need to pay for the knowledge or if you can Google your way through.

42. There is no correct way to live life. transient2

43. We’re all connected.

44. Be of service.

~kg