I was going to tell you the greatest thing about my brother and sister-in-law, until I realized…I don’t know. The truth is I cannot.
That’s what happens when you don’t take the time to get to know someone. That’s also what occurs when you’ve allowed what you perceive to be a person’s flaws to dominate your interactions.
I have to admit that’s happened here.
Between 1993-1996, I was so busy trying to get my brother-in-law to see that I was a ‘good’ person and worthy to be his brother’s wife, that I didn’t just stop and communicate in an authentic way, a way where I’m listening to and understanding him and his point of view. I was in a space of proving.
Once I realized attempts at demonstrating my worth were futile, I entered another mode. Today, you’d call it IDGAF. Twenty years ago, I suppose I just distanced and detached myself from the entire situation. By 1999, he had a wife. But I didn’t give a f*ck. And I certainly wasn’t going to treat her better than I’d been treated.
Over the years, I fluctuated between proving myself and not caring at all. I’d show interest by purchasing Christmas gifts for their one, two, and eventually four children. After all, Dwight and I are their aunt and uncle. The strain in my brother-in-law’s voice when he’d say, thank you, sounded like a child’s forced greeting. So, I returned to a lack of care. Who cares? This isn’t going to change anyway, I convinced myself.
I was right. Partially.
In 2015, my sister-in-law and I agreed to read books together. We both enjoy reading, so it seemed a great way to bond. It wasn’t. We don’t even like the same genre. Her answers to our first book, A Terry McMillan one I chose, were terse. My answers to her selection, The Book of Negroes, were filled with insecurity and arrogance. I didn’t want to sound like a university professor analyzing a book, and I also loathe historical fiction. Turns out we didn’t need to read together.
Later that year when my father died, I took score. Who called? Who didn’t call? Who sent something? Who didn’t? In essence, who seemed as if they cared? Aside from a sorry to hear that via Facebook, neither reached out. That was the proverbial straw. I mailed a letter telling them as such. I also let them know it was okay. It was clear they didn’t like me. And it was okay.
As of today, there are three years of unspoken words between us. However, I’ll be in their hometown in less than a week and plan to visit with my husband. Similar to times past, I’m in a different space. I understand we’re all human beings, with histories that shape how we interact or don’t interact with others. I care about what this visit will yield, but not because I’m trying to prove myself to anyone. I stopped that behavior a couple years ago. There’s little reason and like this relationship showed, it doesn’t work anyway.
In my new space, I’ll be fully present. I’ll engage in conversation without wanting to show my worth or to denigrate theirs. I’ll attempt to get to know both of them. Maybe this time next year I can feature them for the Greatest Thing About category, or maybe I will have finally learned what people mean when they say, “it is what it is.”
I have 400 notes. That’s 179 more than when I first began this category, which I started as a way to delete the notes. But what’s happened is because I have the category, I keep more notes. You know…just in case I want to write about something. But as I look through them, they’re not all writing ideas. So, I’m purging.
A few of my notes are simply passwords. I’ve written about this before, but it ends today! There is no reason for me to keep password upon password both on my phone and written down somewhere. Although, keeping the password to get into my work office is handy. Maybe I’ll just keep that one.
Now, I’m down to 377.
There are fourteen notes specifically about my job dissatisfaction. The reason why has become increasingly clearer to me over the past few years. I’m overqualified and that has led to a general sense that I should be doing something else with my gifts and talents. And anyone with a job knows that it’s challenging to write about one’s employer without the fear of losing said job. While these fourteen notes have been helpful in shaping my understanding of the dilemma, they are now taking up digital space, especially if I’m not going to publicly share.
Six of my notes are action steps centered on The Unhappy Wife, a book I published two years ago. I’m not quite sure why I’ve hung on to these lists if the goals are accomplished. Similarly, seven are about how to sell Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. These aren’t fleshed out marketing plans, but rather, thoughts that I might’ve used to do a soft sell, like this:
If you want closure, then go see a therapist. If you want understanding and empathy, then read this book.
I’m pretty sure I never used it because it sounded a bit harsh. Either way, I’m down to 350.
There are ten notes specifically with the word “self” in the title. These are ideas I really intended to flesh out, like 3 ways to Be Self-aware, Re-defined: On Being Selfish, One-minute Self-worth Ideas. Because I’ve already devoted February 2018 to self-love, and with the help of others successfully shared varied ideas on the topic, I’m going to consider this mission complete.
There are a fair amount of notes that are just people’s names, so I remember next time I see them, which seems borderline redonkulous because I don’t think I’m going to search my phone when we cross paths. Another part includes random places, like meeting rooms and events people have invited me to.
Deleted. Now, I’m down to 326.
For the most part, what remains are actual topics I’d planned on writing about, but as I re-read them, I’m just not. Instead, I’ll share a brief list of blog/social-media starters:
- “So, I was watching videos of how the FBI infiltrated black organizations,” this is how Desi begins conversations with me.
- I like confessional songs and memoirs because I’m seeking authenticity. Can I tell the truth in each moment? Can you? And if not, why?
- Does it matter if your spouse practices the same religion as you?
- Children are not people who need fixing.
- 3 top knots in a Nissan Versa doing 48 on the interstate (this really happened and I thought I’d write a brief story about this beginning driver).
- I hate guilt-trip gratitude. Usually sounds like this, remember someone didn’t wake up this morning. I should be grateful because I’m not in someone else’s shoes? Nope. You should be grateful period.
- There is nothing you can buy outside of yourself that will make you a better/happier person.
- I want someone to create a “Blame Trump” t-shirt. I’d buy it.
- How many lies does it take to make someone a liar?
- Sometimes you have to pull yourself away from situations, put yourself together, and then re-enter with a new mindset.
Welp, I’m down to 316 notes.
You know I’m happy to talk about any of these ideas. Let me know what you’re thinking. Until then, I’ll be working on a new Monday Note.
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.
That’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.
I 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?
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.
After 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.
Stream of Consciousness is the name applied specifically to a mode of narration that undertakes to reproduce, without a narrator’s intervention, the full spectrum and continuous flow of a character’s mental process” (Abrams 299).
I’m leery to call what follows as stream of consciousness. But this is what my internal dialogue looks like. It’s innate for me to add periods and press the return key, even if it is in my Notes section. Does that mean it’s not stream of consciousness? Here it is. You be the judge.
I write about the little things because it’s the little things that keep us up at night. We wonder why we didn’t get the party invite, some of us even at 40+ still wonder. We worry about how our voices sound and how we look in video. You know who you are.
I write about the little things because they turn into big things. Little indiscretions turn into major experiences that we wonder how tf we got into. Small slides of behavior turn into whole acts of disrespect.
I write about the little hints because that’s what’s relatable. I save the big things for books: abuse, drugs, flaws of Christianity. Yes. The little things are daily. It’s where annoying coworker meets zen philosophy. It’s where wrong job choice meets law of attraction. I want to have discussions in the middle of those spaces. I want to know why you haven’t talked to your dad in 12 years and I’ll tell you what happened with mine. Hmmm…is that little or big? I guess it depends on the size of the hole in our heart.
After re-writing this as-is, I’ve decided it is stream of consciousness for me. You see if I were writing a final, public version, I wouldn’t use wonder twice. I would revise hints to things and probably not use things so much. I would capitalize Zen and Law of Attraction. I would have used the phrase “Christianity’s flaws,” not “flaw of Christianity” because one rolls off the tongue and the other doesn’t.
I would’ve titled this “The Little Things” or “Why I Write.” And I would’ve given more examples. For instance, I write about why people have a fifth drink when they should’ve stopped at two; three more drinks can turn a small decision into a fiasco or a lifetime regret. I would keep the rhetorical question in the end and add this: what I’ve learned is they’re all little things. What we choose to hold on to and how we decide to respond makes them seem larger than life.
Also, if I were being all formulaic and precise, I would end with an MLA citation for that beginning quote 😉
Looking forward to hearing what you think about stream of consciousness or the topic.
On this blog, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my observations about people and society in general. No matter how hard I try, some of these posts might come off a bit negative.
And that’s not fair, really.
People are multidimensional and I certainly wouldn’t like it if I read a blog about all the horrible things someone perceived about me, with little balance.
Because of this, I’m beginning a new category called: The Greatest Thing About… Each month, I’ll blog about someone or something positively…on purpose.
Hope you enjoy!
*Also shared for Debbie’s Forgiving Fridays ❤