In this interview, I asked Michelle to give her expert opinion on a book I’d recently read. See what she has to say about wives being constant in their love…
I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.
“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”
We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.
Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.
My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.
Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.
When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.
“You want a party?” she asked.
“Yes,” I beamed.
“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”
So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.
Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.
I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.
But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.
Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.
In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?
Oh boy! The conversation is getting juicy!
The louder I get the more thick my southern accent becomes! LOL!
As you know, Dr. Garland’s subject matter centers around male/female relationships. In this session, we continue our conversation from part 2 on the differences between men and women.
Please be sure to follow Dr. Garland and Michelle! You can link to them via the first or second post of this interview.
I usually can’t write about something, unless I’m completely over it. That’s why I have about 6,000 notes related to breaking up with my bff and no posts about it. Ever since June, I’d try to begin my thoughts. Each time, I produced nothing.
But this time, I’m doing it.
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?
August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.
WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.
“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.
I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.
We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.
“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.
I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.
We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.
Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:
Tarra by herself.
Tarra and me.
Tarra and John.
John and me.
Tarra, John, and me.
I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.
A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.
“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”
Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.
As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.
We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.
I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.
“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”
“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”
A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”
She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.
By now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.
“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”
“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.
Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.
We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.
My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.
I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.
“Why did you come?” That’s what Dwight asked me as we drove down I-10E, away from his brother’s home.
I came because I should be able to visit family without there being a problem.
I came because it’s what I do. If I’m in your city or state for business, then I let you know so that we can see one another, even if the other person wouldn’t do the same.
I came because I finally realized that it’s not anyone’s job to like, love, or validate me, so how they feel about me (positive or negative) doesn’t matter.
I came because, despite what people may think, I actually do like family.
Those are the answers I gave. But there is one more. I came because I believe part of my purpose is to work out relationships and their challenges. That’s why I write about them so much. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law was one more opportunity to work through how to be in relationship with them.
To be clear, the visit was pleasant. In fact, I had great conversations with my nieces and nephews; we even laughed and played on their trampoline.
Even though it was great, a few concepts were reinforced about interacting with family.
Compromise is required sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are Christians. We visited on the weekend; therefore, SIL announced that the six of them would be attending church Sunday morning and we were welcomed to attend. The alternative? “You’ll just be here in an empty house if you don’t come,” she said.
Neither Dwight, nor I believe or participate in organized religion. I haven’t attended a church service in countless years. But from 11a until 1p, we listened to praise and worship songs and a lengthy sermon on the Samaritan woman (John 4).
We could’ve stayed at their home. But we didn’t for one reason. We hadn’t seen them in seven years. We came to spend time with them, and if they’d planned on being at church while we were there, then that’s where we would be too.
Differences make connecting difficult. The more I conversed with my SIL, the clearer our differences became. She likes rural communities; I like major cities. She’s introverted; I’m extroverted. She likes the cold and snow; I live for the warmth of the sun. She has a very quiet voice; I speak from my chest (a colleague once told me). She prefers tea; I love a full-bodied coffee. She’s conservative; I’m liberal. I could probably continue but I’m sure you get the point.
There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points. For example, although it was nice of her to buy coffee for me to have prior to church, it was instant. She didn’t realize this might be an egregious act to a coffee drinker. But because I was in a space of compromise, I drank it with gratitude. This brings me to the last lesson.
It’s okay not to be close with family members. It really is. Sometimes family is just family. Sometimes they are just the people to whom you are related. Sometimes family are just the people who married into your space, or you into theirs. For a long time, I thought otherwise. I believed family should be the people with whom you connect with the most. This isn’t always true, and I was reminded once again last week.
Close relationships require shared activities that allow for bonding. There are families who bond over vacations. Some families bond over holiday drinks. Other families bond over sports. I’m not sure our differences will allow for many bonding experiences. And without those, I’m not sure how the relationship can be closer.
While my visit was enjoyable, it was clear that we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.
So, that’s the update. Let me know what you think about either of these points. Also, it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to? If so, how will you manage?
A week or so ago, I revealed that there was some anxiety surrounding my upcoming visit with my brother and sister-in-law. For months, and all the way up to the moment we drove to their home, there were three specific things I did to prepare.
#1: Let go of all grievances! Like many people who have had challenging relationships, I had a list. The list was mainly comprised of interactions with my brother-in-law. They spanned from 1993, when Dwight and I first met through 2015. Everyday leading to the visit, I thought of each act where I felt mistreated. I actually saw the sentence in my mind on a piece of paper, until there was a list. Next, I crumpled up the list and threw it in a fire (in my mind). Because I believe that we’re all energy, I knew that I couldn’t possibly go into their space with a twenty-five-year-old list of everything I was angry about. I couldn’t bring that negative energy with me because it would be disruptive and it would cloud how I engaged. I’d be speaking and functioning from a space of hurt, pain, and suffering, instead of love, which was my ultimate intention.
#2: Love them the way I would anyone else! Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that if I like, love, or care about someone, then I interact differently. For example, if I care about you, then I look you in your eyes, ask you about your well-being, and fully participate in conversation. If I don’t, then one of those actions is missing. For this trip, I knew it was my sister-in-law’s birthday, so I decided to act as I would if I was visiting a friend and it was his or her birthday. Dwight had already planned to buy a bottle of wine, but I also suggested bringing enough gourmet cupcakes for her and her family of six. We’d also chosen a beautiful card to accompany her gifts.
#3: Visualize positive interactions! Law of attraction and creative visualization have undergirded the last two decades of my life. If you’re not familiar, at the base of these teachings is the idea that emotion and images create the life you want or the life you have. As I mentioned before, I intended to bring love to the situation; accessing that emotion was no problem; however, visualizing it in their space was challenging sometimes. I imagined myself ringing their doorbell and both of them opening the door. I created an image and a dialogue where I was very excited to see them.
I’d planned to say, “Heeey Happy Birthday!”
She would then say, “Thank you so much.”
Then, I would hand her the box of cupcakes and she would be very appreciative.
I’m sure there’s some scientific name for this, but visualizing positive interactions was hard to do because my brain kept reminding me of the old story. It goes like this: even if they knew it was my birthday, they would probably never bring me a gift. Then, my brain reminded me of something on the list: one year my brother-in-law convinced his father that my birthday was two days later, which was hurtful. When that happened, I reverted back to strategy number one, removed the act from the list again, and continued visualizing. I imagined holding an in-depth conversation with my oldest nephew, and even though I didn’t really know my younger nieces and nephew, I saw us laughing and playing games.
These three things worked for me, and as promised, I will update you on the actual visit tomorrow.
Written for Debbie’s blog and #ForgivingFridays.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves” – kelley from Black Burgundy.
I read this quote on kelley’s blog a month or so ago. It resonated so deeply with me that I typed it into my notes and vowed to write about it one day.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves. But we do it often. My father did this when he discovered he had Stage 4 throat cancer. He wanted me to demonstrate a self-less, compassionate, and giving love towards him, when many times he had not shown the same towards others, especially me. How could he expect me to do something that he had never done, and because he was dying, would never do? It baffled me for the first two years, until I made a choice and decided who he chose to be didn’t matter. All that mattered is who I chose to be because I had to sit with my own character.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves reminds me of a Jill Scott interlude. It’s called Willing. In it, Scott describes a relationship that all too many women may be used to. It’s a relationship where the man wants his mate to exhibit certain characteristics: “flawless,” “patient,” “willing,” “honest,” and “loyal,” just to name a few. Have you seen this type of romantic relationship? One person expects these qualities, but doesn’t offer it themselves. In fact, consciously or unconsciously, they may be the opposite: flawed, impatient, stubborn, dishonest, and disloyal, yet they desire something else.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves seems like commonsensical advice for all relationships, but I suppose it’s not. I have a great aunt, who is 96 years old. All of my life she’s never called me. In fact, she relies on her sister, my Grannie, to call, keep up with, and pass on information about my life’s happenings and me. However, in her later years, she’s become a widow, lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, and lost her mobility to old age. As she sits in her tiny apartment, this way of keeping up with me has stopped working for her. Her solution?
“Call me once a month,” she says.
Notice, she didn’t say, “I’ll call you once a month.” Instead, she wants me to do something that even she doesn’t plan to begin doing.
People are funny. And because of that, relationships and how we relate to one another and tend to one another’s needs (or not) are also laughable.
I’d advise that we stop this behavior and begin anew. Give to others what you desire. If you want love, then give love. If you want compassion, then be compassionate. If you want honesty, then tell the truth as much as possible. In this way, you’ll always have what you want because it will begin with you. And if you don’t have it to give, then it might be time to dig deep to figure out why.
Let me know what you think, and if you want to check out the Jill Scott interlude, here it is. It’s a little over a minute.
Everyone who personally knows me knows that when I’m referring to my Grannie, it’s my mother’s mother. When my other grandmother was alive, Grandma Emma, I either referred to her by name, or as “my other grandmother.” Grannie has always been Grannie.
One of the best things about our relationship is that I had her all to myself for twenty-three years. This was for two reasons. One, my aunt and mother were at least a decade apart. Secondly, my aunt delayed having children until she was in her 30s, thus giving me a Grannie advantage, so to speak, and also making me the only person to call her Grannie. Even though my cousins and I share a grandmother, because they’re in the same generation as my children, for whom she is their great-grandmother, they all call her Gi-Gi.
But I digress.
The best thing about my Grannie is that she always has some wonderful piece of advice, in the form of a saying that just seems to roll off her tongue.
Her most recent one is “The only reason you’re not president is because Obama is.” See how poignant that is? I always took that to mean that you can do whatever you want to do. It shows a positive characteristic that she possesses. For the most part, anything you tell her you want to do, she’ll encourage you and even monetarily support you in achieving that dream.
Another piece of advice that I was raised hearing is “If you make your bed hard, then get out the bed.” I always thought this was clever because it’s a twist on an older adage if you make your bed hard, then lie in it. “Oh no,” my Grannie will tell you to this day. “If your bed is hard, then go find a new bed; change the bed.” I absolutely love this saying because it’s so true. A lot of times we think we have to remain in a situation because we created the situation. But even the law of attraction and all types of new age thinking will advise you to create a new thought and manifest a new reality.
The last piece of advice she gave me was as an adult. I remember explaining to her an email I’d sent to my doctoral chair. Having little knowledge about email, she stopped me mid-story and said, “You’re giving this lady too much information. She doesn’t need to know that you have to drop the kids off and pick them up at five. All she needs to know is you can’t make the meeting.” From that day on, I rarely give excuses for why I can’t do something at work. She was right. All people need to know is the crux of the information. A lot of times we want people to know that we’re hard workers, who would never be derelict in our duties. We think we need “good excuses” to not meet job expectations. Nope. We don’t. So pare down those emails and know that everything will be okay.
Tomorrow will be Grannie’s 92nd birthday. I’m sure when I speak with her, she’ll have more quotables for me.
Do you have any favorite sayings that get you through situations? Feel free to share. My blog is called Kwoted after all 😉
Happily shared for #ForgivingFridays and Debbie’s blog.
…is being with your best friend for the rest of your life, assuming that you’ve married your best friend, which I highly recommend.
If your spouse is not your best friend, then I’d suggest you and s/he at least be friends.
You probably wanna be married to a person with whom you’d like to actually be around for long periods of time, and with whom you’d like to do activities. For Dwight and me it’s important because we enjoy traveling.
Our adventures together began twenty-two years ago when his parents paid for our honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta. We saw an ocean for the first time ever! We snorkeled. We partied. We rode motor scooters through the tiny streets where I thought I was going to face plant onto the cobble-stoned roads and die. To this day that memory makes him chuckle. Those were good times and there’s no one else I’d rather have done it with than my husband.
Since then, he’s chaperoned a study abroad trip with a group of high school students and me. Aside from keeping track of everyone, we ate really bad fish and chips, saw the Globe Theater, and visited the British Museum.
We’ve flown to Vegas four times and each time I’ve wondered how this trip could be any different than the last. Well, each one has been. Every trip has been at a different stage in our relationship, with different people, and for a variety of reasons. Sin City never disappoints, but quite honestly, neither does our affection for staying up all night, gambling, strolling up and down the Strip, and eating fine cuisine.
For some couples, travelling stops once they begin a family. But not for us. In fact, the girls have joined us on a few trips. Years ago, when they were little, they went on their first real flight across the country to Seattle. We saw the first Starbucks, visited the aquarium, and watched fish fly through the air at Pike Place. By the time they were rolling their pre-teen eyes at everyone, they’d eaten authentic Philly Cheesesteaks in Philly and visited the Liberty Bell. And although it was a bit expensive, I insisted they come with us on our sixteen-hour flight to Japan. I wanted them to know the rest of the world existed before they left our little bubble.
I could continue recounting years of vacays, but the point is, there’s no one else I’d rather see another part of the planet with than my hubby.
Happy Anniversary Dwight! Here’s to twenty-two more years of sightseeing.