I was hit by a car when I was fourteen years old. It was a Saturday. Because my father was the youth pastor, we were going to church to pick up teens for an activity. When we arrived, my then best friend stood across the street in front of the building. She yelled out my name, and without a second thought, I darted into traffic.
As the story goes, the car hit me, my body flew up in the air, and I landed on the man’s windshield.
I awoke in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital bed the next day. Aside from being unconscious and sore, I had also chipped my front tooth. Out of all the details my mother, the nurse, and best friend relayed, missing about twenty-five percent of my front tooth is what filled my eyes with tears.
Consequently, every five years, since I was fourteen, I’ve gotten a filling for just that part of my front tooth. It’s been a lifelong hassle. Some years, shading was either too off-white or not white enough, leaving that one tooth in a mismatched contrast. Other years, I didn’t have enough money to get it re-done and had to suffer the coffee stains that remained. Some years, the tooth was too short or too long.
The last time I had it re-filled was 2017. Not only was the shading off, but the dentist had shaped the tooth to be facing to the right.
That’s when I decided to find a new dentist.
“If you want it to look perfect,” new dentist said, “you’ll have to get a crown. That way, it’ll be computer generated and you can get custom shading, so it’ll match your other teeth.” “Plus,” he continued, “you can’t keep getting this filled. It’s deteriorating.”
I saved my money and made my appointment for November 30th. I carefully chose this date because classes would be ending, and I would have the semester break to get used to a crown.
As I lie in the chair, I knew I’d made a bit of a mistake.
I didn’t realize the dentist had to file down most of my tooth. This is standard, so the crown will fit over it. I should’ve googled the process ahead of time.
I knew I’d have a temporary crown for three weeks, but I didn’t know it could fall off, which is exactly what happened.
Not having a front tooth was stressful. Dwight and I have been together since 1993. Last month is the first time he’d seen me without a front tooth. Hell, it was the first time I’d seen myself toothless. And let me tell you, having a little baby tooth right in the front of your mouth creates a black hole only fit for hockey players and such.
The second time it fell off, I was with a friend. Though I was embarrassed, I was grateful we were at her house and not at a public restaurant.
The third time it fell off, I was tired. I’d been so stressed about not having a tooth that I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I awoke with a pain on the right side of my mouth from where I’d been grinding all night. So, I just left it off until my appointment arrived.
December 15th, I received the permanent crown. Let me tell you something. It’s beautiful. It’s the best tooth I’ve ever had since I was fourteen.
But it’s different. It feels like a foreign object in my mouth.
I’m a tad bit traumatized from the temporary and don’t really want to bite into anything, so it takes me twice as long to finish a meal these days. Jamie, the dental assistant, who’s become my bestie at the office has assured me it’s fine and the tooth will not fall off.
I can feel a slight space between the crown and the back of my actual tooth, but again, Jamie took a picture, showed it to me, and explained that it’s fine. According to her, the dentist will not attach it to my gum line because it may cause irritation and gum disease.
This. Feels. Weird.
So, yeah. This is one of those rare times where I feel as if I’ve made a huge mistake. Instead of seeking to have the perfect tooth, I should’ve sought some level of acceptance of my imperfect smile that only I seemed to have noticed all these years.
Yep. I think that’s the lesson here.
Do you have a crown? Implants? Dentures? An area of your body you wish looked a little different? Let me know about your experience in the comments, while I adjust to this, um, new situation.
A few weeks ago, three friends reached out to me to ask if I’d watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey yet. I love Christmas movies and didn’t even know it was a thing, so I was super excited to run home and watch it as soon as I could. Here are four things I liked about the movie.
The cast is Black. Representation in media is important. I came of age in the ‘80s. At the time, the only Christmas film I had that included people who looked me was The Wiz with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, and even that was an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. As I grew older, I enjoyed watching Christmas movies…a lot, but there still weren’t many that included an all-Black cast. As of today, there are about eleven, including some fan favs, like The Preacher’s Wife, The Best Man Holiday, and Almost Christmas. So, I’m quite pleased to add another all-Black Christmas movie to the list.
There is a dysfunctional father-daughter theme. Most of you know I’ve edited and contributed to a book called Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships, so I was super happy to see this movie normalizes that theme, while not blaming the father or the daughter for the dysfunction. There was one part, in particular, with which I could relate. The narrator says, “Jessica didn’t just lose one parent, she lost two.” That’s exactly how I felt when my mother died and I think this film did a great job of demonstrating how dysfunction occurs, without centralizing the issue or overexaggerating events.
Jeronicus Jangle is a Black male professor. I’m a professor who has worked fulltime at three different institutions. I have encountered two Black male professors in each department. I’ve also graduated from three different universities in three different cities and have studied under three Black male professors in the English and education field. There aren’t a lot of professors who fit the demographic. I’m not sure what the statistic is for math and science, which is what Jangle’s character was, but I’m willing to bet it’s low. Kind of like having an all-Black cast, this type of representation matters, too.
The songs are inspiring and uplifting. I’m glad no one told me Jingle Jangle was a musical, because I probably wouldn’t have watched it. I absolutely loathe musicals. There’s something about people breaking out into song and dance in the middle of a script that’s uber annoying. But, as I prepared to write this blog post, I re-watched the movie and really listened to the songs. Each one is very motivational. My favorite is sung by Journey (Madalen Mills), Jangle’s granddaughter; it’s called, “Square Root of Possible.” And the chorus is,
I mean, really. How much more inspiring can you get than this song???
Have you watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey? If so, let me know what you liked about it in the comments. If not, I suggest checking it out on Netflix. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s nice to have a new sunshiny movie to watch.
I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:
Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.
Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?
Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.
You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,
Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”
I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.
You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.
I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.
We were friends for a decade and a half. Fifteen years is a long time. We’d friended our way through childbirth, divorce and international relocations. If you’ve been friends with someone for this long, then you know the laughs, tears, secrets, and experiences that can accumulate. There are too many to count.
That’s why breaking up was difficult. I felt its dissipation at least three years ago, but I thought it would pass. I figured if I gently expressed my new journey to her then, she would understand and join me. That’s not reality. Everyone cannot walk beside you on your path. Everyone is not supposed to.
And you know what? I’ve learned that it’s okay if they don’t. Equally important, I’ve become a little more conscious about who I am in friendships and what I want in those relationships:
I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist. Friends listen to one another during their times of need. I get it. However, if all our phone calls include me listening to you and your problems, then that’s not a friendship. That’s a therapy session. Asking me to be your part-time counselor is not fair to me or you. Also, I’ve discovered that my tolerance level is low when it comes to this. Some people find this cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. I empathize deeply. I take whatever you’ve revealed to me and literally feel your emotion. When it’s traumatic, it weighs heavy. Until I learn to let go of others’ issues, I need my friends to seek therapy, instead.
I want my friends to grow. Is this fair to say? You all know I’m always seeking growth, physically, spiritually, academically, whatever. If you’ve known me for any length of time, then I’m probably not the same person you first met. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying I want a friend who is a mirror image of me. I don’t. But if we’re friends, then I want to know that you care about your own well-being and that maybe, you and I will help one another get there. Here’s the tricky part. Growth begins with self-reflection. And self-reflection requires looking in the mirror and being honest with oneself. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t make someone self-reflect.
I want my friends to be non-judgmental. For real. I’ve been singing the non-judgment song for about four years. Now, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still screenshot the occasional text to a mutual friend and wonder “what in the world is wrong with her?” But not always good people. Other people’s business is not often the topic of my own conversations. That’s because I’m too busy doing #2 ^^^ self-reflecting and growing. If the purpose of you reaching out to me is to discuss when someone else is going to get her life together, then you and I probably don’t need to connect that often.
Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few girlfriends. The main reason is because I’d never thought twice about who the person was when we met. It was more like, you like eating out and partying? Me too. Let’s get together and do that, and then we became friends. The end of those friendships forced me to process how or why we became close. I’ve determined the answer is usually rooted in the energy surrounding me at the time. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.
For now, I’m wondering, have you ever broken up with a friend? Did it bother you? Have you thought about what you want in a friendship? Do you have long-lasting friendships? If so, how’d that happen?
Following your intuition can be a scary thing because many of us have been taught to listen to family and friends, walk with the crowd, or attain external validation instead of listening to ourselves. We’ve literally been taught to not trust our gut instinct, which can sometimes be detrimental because we end up living by someone else’s rules, as opposed to our own.
If this is you, here are four ways to ease into following your intuition:
1: Be impulsive. A blogger once asked me to differentiate between intuition and impulse. I don’t remember what I told her, but today I have an answer. Being impulsive has a negative connotation. No one wants to be impulsive. Impulsive purchases can create debt. Impulsivity can lead to destructive lifestyles. Romeo and Juliet were impulsive and look what happened to them! See how we’re shaped to believe a thing each and every moment?
But what is intuition, except knowing you should do something right then?
If you’re not used to following your intuition, then I suggest making a small, impulsive, low stakes move. For example, have you ever felt you should call a person? Go ahead and call. Have you ever talked yourself out of buying a piece of clothing in a new color? Go ahead and buy it. Making low stakes moves will build your confidence and pretty soon, following your intuition will become second nature.
2: Don’t overthink it. After you’ve decided to do something, you may feel inclined to overthink it. Don’t.
I have done quite a few things in my life without thinking them all the way through. *The latest idea was the Mental Health Matters interviews. My initial thought was I’m not equipped to answer readers’ questions about mental health issues; I can only write about myself and how I’ve handled these concepts. Wouldn’t it be cool if I invited mental health experts to discuss one issue with me in a brief amount of time? That was it. That was the idea. The next thing I know I’d compiled a list and was interviewing experts and having videos edited. The editor then asked me if I wanted an audio for podcasting, too. My answer? Sure. Next I found myself figuring out where to upload audio versions of the interviews.
When I shared the idea with Dwight, he gave me the slow blink and said, “So you’re going to have a podcast now?”
“Maaaybee,” I laughed. That leads me to the next way to follow your intuition.
3: Don’t listen to others’ opinions. There are two reasons why I would suggest not listening to other people’s opinions. The first is if you don’t have supportive people in your life. Instead, you have naysayers. You’ll know who these people are by their past responses. For example, if you’ve told a friend about your idea and their response is why would you do that or how would you do that (but not in a helpful way), then this is the beginning of a subtle naysayer response. The second reason you may not want to listen to the folks around you is because of the opposite. They will have a million different ways for you to enact your idea. Don’t use WordPress. Use Medium. What about Tumblr? Other people’s opinions may send you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and non-productivity, which could lead to never manifesting your idea.
If you need advice about how to make your idea a reality, then use Google, read a book, or take a class. The only exception to this may be if your friend or family member is someone who has done what you want to do. I say may be because that person will still only speak from their experience, which could be totally different than yours.
4: Adopt a playful view of life. Most of the time I view life as a playful experience. When I conceptualized and edited Daddy, I thought of it as playing with other people, you know, like when you were a kid? I envisioned being in a room with the other women and pretending to be authors who were writing a book. And now, I thought, we’re going to go around the country and tell people about the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun? With a little planning and agreement, it happened. We actually did the aforementioned things and impacted lives at the same time. Trust me, pretending is not just for children. Kind of like being impulsive, we’ve been told it’s not something we should do as adults. But not imagining, pretending, and playing are for adults, too.
I hope being impulsive, not overthinking, listening to yourself, and adopting a playful view of life helps to guide you toward a happier and more intuitive life!
*Update: My latest impulsive act was co-creating a petition to stop Florida public schools from reopening in August. If you’re concerned about this issue, then you can view and sign the petition here: Safe Return for P-12 Florida Teachers.
In 1963, Bồ Tát Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire (self-immolated) to protest religious oppression in Vietnam. Although the country was at least 70% Buddhist, landowners were Roman Catholic, and so was the president at the time. Subsequently, the president and others had created an environment biased in favor of Catholics, resulting in the oppression of Buddhists. So, Quảng Đức self-immolated (source).
Though, I’d seen photos, I could never imagine the image or smell. I could never imagine wanting justice so bad, that I’d set myself on fire to raise awareness and fight for a cause, yet he and other Buddhists did just that.
I read up on it recently. Apparently, Buddhist weren’t allowed to fly their flag for a religious holiday, while Roman Catholics had donned theirs just days prior. Catholics were being advanced in government and military positions, while Buddhist were not. Roman Catholics were forcing Buddhists to convert to their religion as a requirement for living in Vietnam and as a way to reap equitable benefits (source).
I now understand. Conditions were so deplorable and demeaning for Vietnam Buddhists that they resorted to extreme measures. To make a statement. To announce they weren’t taking the Roman Catholics’ shit anymore. They were over it.
Sounds familiar to me.
Though I would never set fire to anything, I understand. Constantly seeing police, representatives of the American government, murder Black people in the street, in broad daylight, on video, while simultaneously telling Black people when, where, and how to protest or not to protest evokes a sense of helplessness.
We’re told we’re American citizens, yet we don’t receive the benefits of a so-called just system. When cops kill Black people, we watch grand jury after grand jury after grand jury return with a decision to not indict. What’s left to do? To what and whom will the government listen?
Destruction of the system American capitalists hold so dear is what’s left. Burning buildings down, even if they’re in our own community and allegedly for own benefit is what’s left to do. It’s a clear manifestation of the suppressed anger and sadness we’re told to get over and stop harboring. It’s a demonstration of how we feel about being shown that our lives are dispensable.
I hear it clearly. Businesses are expendable. Buildings can be rebuilt. Police cars can be replaced. Similar to Quảng Đức’s self-immolation, protestors want to make a point.
However, there’s this part to consider. Vietnam Buddhists had a five-point plan they wanted enacted. After demonstrating, Buddhists were immediately prepared to ask for change from their government. Six days later, The Joint Communiqué was signed.
So, that’s my suggestion.
Black Americans, including born citizens, naturalized citizens, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, non-Christians, Israelites, and everyone in between need to have one unified voice of a multipoint plan, with oversight…for the entire nation, regardless of location.
Number one on the list should be STOP MURDERING US.
*24 hours after I wrote this, it was alleged that white nationalists infiltrated peaceful demonstrations, with looting and fires (source). Whether this is true or not, I maintain that radical action plus a unified plan has to occur to stop police from killing people who look like me; history has proven these two acts to be effective.
I began Monday Notes a few years ago as a self-accountable way to transfer thoughts from the Notes section of my phone to this blog. But sometimes, I have more ideas than writing time. When my notes outweigh my writing, I do a phone dump to share.
Here we go:
- Relationships take effort and not everyone’s willing to put in the energy. What do you do when others don’t exert the same energy, whether it is familial, romantic, or friend?
- To be a mother, you have to get used to others judging what type of mother they think you ought to be. I’ve been on both ends of this, so at this point, I think it just happens. Either you think you know a better way for someone to mother her children, or someone thinks the same about the how you’re doing it.
- “I ain’t popping no pill, but you do as you wish” is one of my favorite rap lines. It’s from a song called “Middle Child,” by J. Cole. I love it because I think it’s representative of live and let live, which of course is contradictory to #2, but hey.
- Life was easier when I wasn’t as conscious.
- It’s not my job to make you be self-aware. It’s not any of our jobs to make someone else be self-aware.
- Acceptance does not mean approval; I think I read this in Iyanla Vanzant’s, Get Over It!
- Has anyone written about how patriarchy is reflected in the American presidency through age and race?
- There’s a difference between being influenced by someone and copying someone. I prefer the former.
- Some people think they have an open mind, but really, they just are open to listening to people who share their worldview.
- Seeing how people treat others in their life may be an indicator of how they will treat you as well.
- When someone says they wished they were married or had a husband/wife, I always think what they’re wishing for is a fairy tale. Marriage is not a fairy tale, even if the two people have immense love/like for one another.
- Love is deeper than your love language.
- You’re either committed to your craft, or you’re committed to your excuses. I think this may be a direct quote, but I’m not sure…maybe I made it up. I’ve Googled it and can’t find it, so I’m claiming it.
- I could complain about the person who didn’t hold the door for me, or I could just hold the door for the next person.
Is it fair to ask someone to change their behavior to suit your needs? I’ve decided it’s not fair, which is why I’d rather change myself than ask anyone in my life to change how they function around or with me.
- Don’t ask people to change their review of your book. This happened to me last year. An author didn’t like what I had to say, so that person DM’d me on Twitter and asked me to change my rating and comment. My answer? NOPE. I thought this was hella tacky.
- The threat of male privilege is showing through American comedians. I wrote this when I happened to watch a series of comedy shows, where men seem very threatened by the LGBTIQ community. This has ranged from Dave Chappell to Bill Burr. They all have a segment specifically focused on sexual identity and how it’s affected them, but opinions/jokes seem to be fear and insecurity based.
- If there’s a vast difference between how you present yourself on social media and how you present face-to-face, then the problem isn’t social media.
Please feel free to comment on any of these. You know I’m always up for a conversation in the comments 😉
Perfectionism also used to dictate how I showed up in personal and work relationships. There was a time when I did things because I wanted to be perceived as the best fill-in-the-blank person. For example, I wanted to be the best co-worker, so I overextended myself, attended meetings that had little value, and was always the first to complete a task. I wanted whatever director or department chair over me to see me as “the best.” Oftentimes, I functioned similarly with family. I wanted to be seen as the person whom everyone could count on, the person who my cousins could call no matter what. So, I visited for holidays even though it wasn’t ideal; I showed up with my family in tow, no matter how it impacted my household. This was due in part to the perfectionist identity I’d unconsciously developed.
But functioning like that bred resentment. There were many times when I would be the “best co-worker” and when it went unnoticed, I took it personally and grew bitter, wondering why no one acknowledged my extra efforts. Or better yet, I’d be mad because someone who’d done less received accolades for minimal activity. When we drove our family out of state year after year, I grew angry. Few family members ever planned holiday visits to my home.
Around 2015, I stopped worrying about being the best co-worker, best family member, best friend, or best anything and started just being the best version of me for me. In action, this simply means that instead I focus on being present and doing the best I can in that moment. I avoid doing things that don’t physically or emotionally feel good or that cause my family or me distress. And the last thing I think about is how the other people to whom the answer is sometimes, “no” may feel.
Functioning this way takes practice and sometimes I lapse. For those times, I pause and become more conscious. For example, the chair of a committee I’m on sent an invite on a Sunday evening for a meeting that began at 5:00 PM on Monday. Not only was the meeting scheduled at the last minute, but it was also 20 minutes farther from where we typically meet, which would add on to my already hour and 45-minute commute. My first thought was to rearrange everything so that I could make the meeting. But then I stopped and asked myself why? Why am I doing this for someone who scheduled a meeting at the last minute? The only reason I would is to appear like the “best co-worker.” It had nothing to do with the value of the agenda. Instead of acquiescing, I simply told her I couldn’t make it. And you know what? The world did not end. I’m not fired. I’m still on the committee, and I saw them the following month.
I hope this isn’t confused with the idea of “doing your best.” No matter what I do, I give 100%. I’m fully present and invested. I’m just no longer concerned with being perceived as the best.
When I was in my 30s or so, I emailed my father because I’d had a revelation.
“You treat all of the women you’re connected to horribly,” I announced.
I’d cracked the code and I had proof. At the time, his mother was a recent double amputee, who’d just moved in with him and his wife. During a breakfast outing, she confided to Dwight and me that he was charging her rent.
I also recounted a rumor I’d heard about how he’d mistreated my own mother. It was something about helping another woman move to Moline, IL while my mother was hospitalized 165 miles away. The indiscretion occurred before I was born, but I’d heard about it so much, primarily when adults didn’t know I was listening, that I could re-tell it myself.
I left the secrets I’d accrued about his current relationship unsaid, and instead, concluded with his treatment of me, which included explicit and implicit abandonment and unfulfilled promises.
“You always did judge me harshly,” he wrote, “but you know what? You’d do better psychoanalyzing yourself.”
At the time, I was offended.
Wouldn’t knowing my parent offer insights into myself and our relationship? I mean, I guess I could’ve phrased it with a less judgmental tone, or used “I statements,” but I’m no therapist and at the time hadn’t sought therapy. All I suspected was that I may be better if I understood his patterns of behavior because parts of who he was had affected me in some way.
Or, was he right?
Would I do better to simply think deeply about my own negative behavior, which was quickly adding up and determine how to proceed with life in a healthier way? Would it be better to stare myself down in the mirror and focus on the image reflected back to me?
Fifteen years ago, it was much easier to point out everyone else’s flaws than to identify and focus on my own. It always is. Plus, I wasn’t ready for that type of introspection.
But, after finally doing the work, I find it’s also important to research your family of origin as a method of recognizing patterns of behavior they may have passed on to you. Sometimes these models have inextricably bound you together in unhealthy ways.
However, I do recognize the rudeness of my communication. If I had the opportunity to re-send this email to my father, I wouldn’t. I’d just accept the observations of his life as observations (and judgments) and be grateful about how helpful they may be for me.
While I believe we will do best to worry about ourselves, ultimately, we were each shaped by our first communities, our families. And understanding who they are/were can be integral to understanding ourselves.
What do you think?