Monday Notes: Compromise: A Definition

Dwight enjoys watching Marvel movies. Me? Not so much. I’ve written before about how as I learned what I liked and disliked, sitting through the same superhero trope was one of the first things to go. However, Dwight values these movies and sees them as a way to introduce me to something he used to enjoy as a child—reading comic books and seeing them come to life in film. Because I recognized this, I told him I would watch one a year with him. 

This, according to Collins dictionary, is a compromise, a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because of circumstances or because they are considering the wishes of other people.  

For the past eight years or so, I’ve been declaring that I no longer compromise in relationships, but this isn’t true*. A compromise implies that both parties get something out of an agreement. In this case, I watch fewer Marvel movies with my husband, but he knows I’m fully devoted to at least one per year. We’ve both compromised what we want to happen. 

Here’s what I actually no longer do:

Acquiesce

Collins dictionary says if you acquiesce in something, you agree to do what someone wants or accept what they do even though you may not agree with it. In my Marvel example, acquiescing would mean I say, “Alriiiight. I’ll go,” and not only watch Spider-man: No Way Home, but also Shanghai and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That’s not a compromise; that’s giving in, and in this scenario, only Dwight would get what he wants.

Prioritize Others’ Desires over My Own

If I prioritized Dwight’s wants over my own, then I would continue watching Marvel movies even when I’d rather be reading a book or writing a new blog post. That wouldn’t be a compromise because I would be either ignoring my needs or putting my desires last (and also sending a message that what I want doesn’t matter as much as what my husband wants). Again, only Dwight would be benefitting in this situation.

ONLY Prioritize My Wants

Doing what you want, regardless of what others want implies a type of selfishness. I care about my husband, his values, and desires. If I didn’t, then I would’ve told him I’m bowing out of all Marvel movies, at the theater and at home. But sometimes he’ll say, “Hey Bay! I really think you’ll like this one,” and I’ll listen to his reason and make a decision. That’s how I ended up watching Doctor Strange in 2016. And he was right. I did like the movie and its concept. 

A Final Word

A lot of us think we’re compromising, when really we’re acquiescing to someone else’s desires or asking someone to give in to ours. Although I’ve based my example on a romantic relationship, these ideas also apply to familial relationships and friendships. For example, family members seem to think you’re supposed to prioritize their needs over your own a disproportionate number of times and innumerable ways (i.e., calling, visiting, spending time), simply because they’re family. And friends oftentimes have selfish requests where one person’s wants end up frequently prioritized with no regard for the other person’s time or circumstances. 

True compromise, however, is a win-win for all parties involved. It shouldn’t involve manipulation, selfishness, or crossing of boundaries. It should feel as if you and the other person have met in the middle. So, what do you think? Do your relationships include compromise or something else?

*Thanks to Rob over at Friends without Borders for prompting me to think about this a little deeper.


Monday Notes: Parenting from the Heart (Part II)

Parenting is hard.

You never know if you’re really doing the right thing, until your children are young adults making decisions. To me, that’s where part of the proof is. Here’s how I know.

Today, is my youngest daughter, Desi’s first day of organic farming school. She now lives approximately 900 miles away in another state, so she can complete a two-year organic farming program.

While I believe that all children are born with their own personalities, I also believe that we as parents can either nurture or stunt those natural-born identities with our parenting style.

Desi choosing to be an organic farmer is an example of how Dwight and I nurtured her personality.

We both believe people should do what they want to do if they can live with the consequences. This concept extends to both of our daughters. Although we believe this idea, it hasn’t been easy to put into practice (well, not always for me, anyway).

For example, Desi graduated high school in 2020 with an international baccalaureate (IB) diploma. It’s as prestigious as it sounds. Because of her degree and intelligence, she could have attended any university in the world. But she didn’t want to.

Believe it or not, part of what was hard about parenting her through this was listening to everyone’s judgment associated with allowing our child not to attend college.

Doesn’t she know how important college is?

What I said: Of course, I have three degrees and Dwight has one. We’re walking examples of “go to college to be successful.”

What is she going to do?

What I said: She’s going to work and figure out what she wants to do.

She’s going to be at your house til she’s thirty.

This came from someone I’d just met. My actual response is too long and inappropriate for this blog.

Judgments withstanding, things have worked out. She took a year to think about her actual interests. She used the internet to research programs. She found an organic farming program: they pay her to attend, they pay for housing, and they will set her up to be a successful organic farmer.

Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

But what happens when success doesn’t come quickly or look like “success?” Dwight and I still nurture with the same belief system, but in a different way.  

Our oldest daughter, Kesi was afforded similar freedoms.* She has the freedom to do what she wants. She was supposed to be a hairstylist but (in my opinion) got distracted. Distractions are okay. And again, children have different personalities. Life hasn’t unfolded the same for her. However, we still maintain Kesi can live how she wants. We would never try to impose what we think she should be doing onto her experience in life. That’s hella arrogant.

Nurturing Kesi looks like having lots of conversation about cause and effect. And the one consistent thing that Dwight and I do, aside from showing how not to live in fear and teaching how to be accountable for your own life is supporting our daughters no matter what they choose to do and no matter what the outcome.

We don’t withhold love, support, or encouragement because their lives don’t look like ours. They both receive the same words of affirmation, quality time, and financial assistance.

I’m pretty sure they both know we value intelligence and education, but they also know we respect whatever it is they want to do, whether that is organic farming or working at Starbucks.


*I hope it doesn’t sound like I think we can give freedoms. People are born free and liberated, but sometimes specific parenting styles can make it seem as if freedom to be who you want is something that children have to earn; and that’s not true.

Parenting from the Heart

Monday Notes: Understanding L❤️VE with Will Smith, bell hooks, and Gary Chapman

Recently, I read Will Smith’s memoir, Will, bell hooks’ All about Love, and Gary Chapman’s, The 5 Love Languages. Here are three common themes each book reinforced about my understanding of love:

Love is deeper than what we’ve learned.

Each author makes clear that love is more than what we were implicitly shown and explicitly taught.  

As a Black, feminist scholar, bell hooks’ message is that what many of us have learned about love is based on the fantasies of men, which is rooted in patriarchy. Therefore, she uses a more in-depth definition from social psychologist Erich Fromm. Fromm says that love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” That’s deep, right?

Gary Chapman is a pastor, and much of what he writes is rooted in Christianity and scripture. For example, he alludes to Genesis 2:24, but he clarifies that “becoming one flesh … did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way.”

Pop culture icon, Will Smith describes the evolution of his relationship with Jada as something that grew to be more spiritual. They’ve publicly call each other “life partners,” which implies something more than riding off into the sunset with a beau.

As someone who’s been married for twenty-five years, the idea that love is more than what we’ve been fed resonates. My marriage to Dwight is the most transformative relationship I’ve ever had. He’s been instrumental to my self-evolution. Through our relationship, I have learned what it means to love someone and to be loved.

What you learn in your family of origin shapes how you view love.

The idea that our families teach us how to love is not new; however, each author shares a nuanced approach to this concept.

bell hooks’ says that “to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” She also suggests a family’s love doesn’t always feel like love because the love we receive from family is primarily care, which is just one component. Many of us do not learn each characteristic of love from our families. Do you see how this can pose a problem for future relationships?

Gary Chapman also explains that many of us have learned how to show love based on the family in which we were raised. For example, my mother showed love by giving gifts. She expressed this love language by throwing parties. I always had two birthday parties—one on my actual birthday and another on the weekend with either family or friends. Guess what I thought love was for a very long time? Guess what my primary love language is?

Will Smith’s memoir brilliantly illustrates how we pass on generational patterns of showing love, whether they worked for us or not. His abusive father showed love through a work ethic and the result of the work ethic, making money, which provided safety and shelter. bell hooks would call this care, and Chapman would label it acts of service. Will then showed that type of love to his wife and children, and even though their family looks hella successful, it backfired; his wife and children didn’t feel loved.

Love is a choice.

Is love a choice? My experience makes me say no.

I maintain that I didn’t not choose to love Dwight any more than I choose to breathe. As soon as we met, our union was solidified. Gary Chapman found this concept so important he devoted an entire chapter to it. He calls this beginning, in-love phase “a temporary emotional high” and “on the level of instinct.” Everything after that is where he says the “real love” begins.

Cool. Chapman agrees with me. We don’t choose to be in love. But maybe we do choose everything after that, which maintains love?

bell hooks says it’s important to acknowledge love as a choice as a way to take ownership of our feelings and actions. She says, “to begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.”

This makes sense to me. Choosing to love or to be loving makes every act intentional, not some willy-nilly, out of control situation.

A story from Will Smith’s memoir that shows how love is a choice was about his daughter, Willow. Willow asked him this paraphrased question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He implied that every argument, every misunderstanding asks this question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He goes on to explain that we show each other the answer by our actions, by the choices we make, which reveal how we choose to love one another.

So, yep. I get it.

We can say, “I love you” a million times, but when it comes down to specific actions, are we choosing to be loving toward the person we say we love? The answer is the difference between someone feeling loved as opposed to just hearing words.  

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I know I got a little theoretical, but hey. It happens. Let me know what you think about love.


Monday Notes: Talking to Myself (Kwoted)

In 2015, I published my first book called, Kwoted. It is a book of original quotes that would pop into my head during my commute between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. It is only available on Kindle, and aside from glowing reviews from my goddaughter and cousin, I’m not sure what the actual impact was.

Recently, though, it dawned on me that this book was me talking to me.

Setting and Attaining Goals

This first section is heavy on believing in oneself and ignoring everything else, something I used to have an issue with. One kwote, “Remember, you can either perpetuate the status quo or envision a new reality; the choice is yours,” was solely for me. At the time, I was doing what I thought I had to do once I attained a terminal degree…work at a university, even if it meant sacrificing my time and health driving up and down the interstate. Once I realized I could create whatever kind of life I wanted, things changed.

Likewise, this kwote, “If you share your plans with someone and they give you the worst-case scenario, then find someone else to share your plans with” is something that used to be challenging. Whether it was a family member or a friend, I noticed there were two types of responses. Either someone would find 7,999 reasons why my ideas wouldn’t work, or someone would simply say, “That’s cool.” I started spending more time talking to the “That’s cool” people. My life improved.

Relationship Perspectives

Are you surprised that I have a section about relationships in this book? My dysfunctional relationship with my father influenced some of these kwotes. “Learn when enough is enough, for you, no matter what anyone else says,” is something I had to tell myself. This stemmed from years of everyone advising that my dad is still my dad, to convince me to continue talking to a man who made little to no effort to connect with me. Like any relationship, I had to determine when to end it.

There are also a few self-love kwotes in this part because I delved deep into understanding my self-worth and self-love issues. It was imperative that I begin to heal my past to have a better future with myself, which eventually improved my relationship with my husband and others.

Konscious Life Perspectives

From 1989-2014, I’d mostly lived my life on autopilot. I’ve written before about how my marriage had turned into a checklist of achievements. Well, my life, in general was about ticking boxes: attaining college degrees, teaching at a higher level, becoming department chair, graduating from a Tier 1 institution, and on and on and on. Enough was enough. I needed to take control by thinking about what I wanted to do. Section three begins with this kwote, “Sometimes you just need a different point of view in life.” I permitted myself to stop, tap into who I really was and what I really wanted, and then proceeded from there. For me, a “different view” meant a more conscious one.

“Give yourself permission to grow in ways that you value” was definitely to me. I needed to break free from the box I’d put myself in. Was I constantly achieving so that my dead mother would be proud? Was I accomplishing things to prove my biological mother’s decision to give birth wasn’t for naught? I had to figure it out, and I had to break free from the cookie-cutter way I’d learned to live that was based on society and familial values. I had to determine my own ideals and pathways.

Opinions and Judgements

I used to be quite the judgmental person. To be fair, I spent a lot of time with a very judgmental grandmother, and as we know, our caregivers are our first teachers. Eventually, I befriended people like me—judgmental. One friend and I used to sit on the phone and judge the shit out of others, like a part-time job. I’d gotten so bad that other friends called me out on my comments.

So, in 2014, I committed to trying not to judge anyone. Kwotes emerged. “You don’t have to denigrate other people’s choices in order to validate your own” is a passive way I noticed that people judge others. My favorite is “Your view of me doesn’t matter, and neither does my view of you.” This one tends to be controversial, but I stand by it. Once you’re living consciously and confidently, how can anyone else’s opinion (which is typically based on fear) matter? It doesn’t.

Kwoted was the voice I heard when as I struggled in these four areas. Whether it was my higher self, as some believe, my inner being, God, the Universe, or a higher power, it was there, guiding me on my journey to shape the person you know and the blog you read today.

Interested in this book? Purchase here.

Otherwise, as usual, I’d love to hear any comments about the kwotes I’ve shared.


Monday Notes: Things I’m No Longer Doing in 2022

1: Persuading People to See My Point of View. A few years ago, I went to help my stepmother with her breast cancer surgery. I was happy to be able to help in any way I could, and she was grateful. However, before I left, she brought up something I’d written in my last anthology: Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. In it, I described how my father used to leave the house and announce that he was “going to get laid.” I was sixteen at the time, and it seemed not only inappropriate, but also unnecessary.

She began the conversation with “Tony said that because of your mother’s condition, she wasn’t able to have sex very much, so when she died…”

For the next thirty minutes, she defended my father, his actions, and his words. And for those thirty minutes, I tried to convince her that he wasn’t quite the man she thought he was. I tried to get her to see my point of view.

But let me tell y’all something. It takes a lot of time and energy to convince someone to see your point of view, when their motive is really to defend someone else and their actions, and I’m not doing it anymore … with anyone.

2. Chasing People for Reciprocity. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them,” and I say when people show you the level of engagement they want to have in your life, act accordingly. The best example I have of this is when my sister-in-law agreed to make amends and develop a relationship.

“Do you want to Skype?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “With the kids and everything, I don’t have time.”

“Do you want to talk on the phone?”

“I don’t really like talking on the phone. Anyway, people who talk on the phone usually just gossip,” she said.

After a bit more prompting, this is what she revealed, “Kathy, I’m good with seeing you every five years or so.”

Although my feelings were hurt by her honesty, I was grateful for her words. I used to be the type of person you had to bonk over the head with a message, and this was one of those times. She and I had two different definitions of relationship, and I didn’t need to keep trying so hard to develop the kind I was seeking, not with her or others who clearly show they’re not interested in the type of relationship I’d like to have.

3. Ignoring My Gut, Literally and Figuratively. 2021 brought my gut issues to the forefront. Digestion has been problematic since 2017, but I’d ignored it. I’d also been taught how to hold everything in, until it burst, and that didn’t serve me well. A laryngopharyngeal reflux diagnosis woke me up. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to seek treatment. But we learn what we learn when we learn it, right? I’ll write a longer post about this situation. For now, I’ll share this: I’ve learned that I don’t have to hold everything in. I can calmly speak my mind in the moment. If the other person doesn’t like what I’ve said or that I’ve said it, that’s their problem, not mine. I’ve learned that my body doesn’t like all of the foods, even though the pleasure center in my brain does. Honoring these two things has helped me pay attention physically and metaphysically to my gut.

Each of these examples are old situations, but they’ve persisted in my life throughout the years to varying degrees, with different people, and with subtleties. However, 2022 will be an intentional year of honoring these three specific points: I don’t need validation for how I feel about my experiences with people; I am grateful for current symbiotic relationships; and my gut always knows best.


What are you doing for 2022? Are resolutions your thing? Are you focusing on one word? How are you going to bring happiness into the new year?


*Monday Notes: Third Chakra

*woo-woo warning: this is a metaphysical conversation, and it’s a little longer than normal.


“…and do it with joy!” my mother used to add whenever I’d crumple up my face and slink off to do whatever she’d asked that interrupted my reading or daydreaming—wash the dishes, polish the wooden coffee table. Whatever the task, ‘do it with joy’ meant don’t pout, look angry, or be upset about it.

It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. And it became a running demand. Later, when she shared it with my grandmother, it became a running joke.

I never thought much of it, until a few weeks ago, when I was talking to Megan, the naturopath.

I’d divulged that I am tired of my job, and I have a nagging suspicion it is time to go. But as of now, I don’t know where to go, so I just do my job.

“Sounds like you may be having issues with your third and fifth chakras,” she suggested.

The fifth chakra is associated with your throat: communication, speaking, etc. I immediately shot that down. “I’ve been speaking my truth. I write. I blog. I’m an author. I freelance,” I told her, while the phlegm that accompanies my cough began building up in my throat.

“Hmmm,” she said. “What about the third? Were you raised in a house where you were made to do things you didn’t want to?” she asked.

“I was,” I said. And then I told her about the ‘do it with joy’ story.

“Sounds a lot like going to a job you don’t like but smiling about it anyway.”

She sent me away with a lot of information, and some of it included affirmations for strengthening my third chakra, which is focused on the stomach area, and subsequently, self-esteem, personal power, and courage.


I’ve reflected on this for a month or so. What does it mean? Is her assessment valid? Is this something I should consider? I decided what Megan said is very useful, and here’s how.

When I graduated with a PhD in 2010, all family and friends saw was KG with a doctorate. However, during that time, I still suffered with the low self-worth and self-esteem that had affected my marriage. Now, it just shifted over to how I looked for jobs, and subsequently, how I dealt with academic rejection.

I received my first position a month before the semester started. Typically, candidates are vetted and offered jobs way before that. The applicant needs time to move, and the institution needs time to prepare for their arrival. I knew this because the process was explained in the first five campus interviews I’d had. By the time I was hired, my (career) self-esteem was waning.

Two years later, I attained my second job in academia, again, a month before the semester started, but the issue was it wasn’t tenure track; I consciously took a job I was overqualified for. At this point, my (career) self-esteem tanked. Why can’t I secure the job for which I’m qualified? Why won’t they pick me?

Three years later, a colleague DMd me and asked if I wanted a job. It was at a community college, which I already had a judgment about, but I said yes for varied reasons. However, accepting this job reinforced what I’d already been thinking: I’m not good enough for these high-level positions. I have no personal power in this area. When it comes to attaining academic jobs, I’m not in charge of shit! So, why even try? Before I developed a gratitude practice or learned to look at a situation from a different perspective, I simply gave up ya’ll!

But I also never resolved these beliefs about jobs in academia, which were tied to my self-esteem and third chakra. Today, I am still sitting in a job I’m overqualified for, as if I have no power to change my circumstances.


So, what happens to emotional energy if you don’t deal with or talk about the situation? People like Louise Hay, believe it stays with you and becomes stuck in the body, eventually creating disease associated with that energy center. Last year, my good, blogging friend, Dr. Dinardo also showed me how anxiety shows up and can stay in your body.

And I agree.

For me, emotions have always developed in my stomach area: excitement and nervousness feel like trapped butterflies; sadness feels like a rollercoaster ride, right before you take that big dive into the unknown; anger feels as if someone has gathered all my internal organs, tied them in a knot, attached them to an anchor, and left them in my belly as a tangled mess to sort out. These are probably common for others, but for me, they’re also constant.

Over the years, I’ve begun jogging before I speak at conferences or practicing yoga before doing something that may be triggering. Exercising helps move energy. Exercising helps me to become unstuck.

The problem occurs when exercise is not an option, which is more frequent, like when I talk to my grandmother.

The other day we had a conversation, where she couldn’t figure out why she was crying. For some reason, she couldn’t connect it to the fact that her last living sister has been diagnosed with dementia and is now in an uncontrollable situation.

“I never cry,” she said with pride. “I never understood why people cry, like at funerals and stuff.”

“Maybe because they’re sad,” I suggested.

“Because they’re sad?” she questioned. “Sad?” she repeated. “Well, you know what they say about that?” she asked me.

“What?”

“You’re sad? You better scratch your butt and be glad!” and then she laughed.

Not only was this phrase not funny to me, but it also sounded like ‘do it with joy’ remixed. Suddenly, my belly started flopping and sinking, and freezing at once. Normally, I wouldn’t say anything (insert lack of personal power with Grannie here). But I’ve been forcing myself to speak up, no matter what, even if it’s uncomfortable.

“Well, that’s not very nice, Grannie,” is all I could muster.

“Huh? It’s not nice?”

“No. That’s not a very nice saying.”

We eventually ended the conversation. My belly wasn’t flopping, and I felt good about expressing my opinion (which is associated with the throat chakra).


Of course, I’ll continue to take my probiotic and finish my elimination diet to re-set my gut; however, I think there is something to acknowledging how we hold energy in our bodies, which is oftentimes associated with a specific chakra. This is the first time I’ve publicly acknowledged how my self-esteem was tied to my inability to find a job aligned with my qualifications. That’s a start. I’ll continue with re-building my (career) self-esteem in small ways and also with using my voice with specific people, even when it’s wobbly or when my belly plummets. While I’m powerful behind this keyboard, it’s also important to me to have a well-rounded sense of personal power in all areas.

Looking forward to hearing what you think.


Monday Notes: I Let Go

I let go of relationships of convenience, where people put you on hold, until you fit into their lives.

I let go of relationships which lack symbiosis, where I visit, and they make excuses for passing my home en route to see someone else.

I let go of relationships where I am not a priority, where careers and other people constantly come first.

I let go of relationships bound to outdated traditions, ones where innovative ways to interact are dismissed.  

And when I let go, I allow for experiences aligned with who I am today.

I open space for new relationships to develop. Relationships where I have authentic discussions with friends about overall wellness—mental and physical.

I recognize friends who have been consistently present, those who communicate in multiple ways during varied times and those who’ve settled in for a lifetime of connection.

I embrace my sister, someone I’ve known for three years, but someone with whom interacting is as natural as breathing. A recent international trip solidified what I’ve always suspected; relationships are not hard.

I notice old friends reentering, reengaging, and recalibrating at just the right moment. Either I need them, or they need me right now.

I accept my cousin’s invitation to commune with her and her family post-Christmas in a different city and state. Her suggestion is timely.

When I let go, I allow myself to expand in newness.

And when I expand in newness, I’m no longer stagnant, resentful, or bitter. Instead, I am growing and evolving in self-awareness and self-love. In this state, I can begin accepting current circumstances, accepting that all relationships don’t last forever, not even if you wish upon a star and meditate on them during the new moon. Some connections are seasonal, and that’s okay.

Peace to everyone letting go of something this fall.



Thoughts On My 25th Wedding Anniversary

“They look like somebody made them!” That’s what one of our wedding guests said on the day we married. She’d reiterated my exact sentiments ever since the first day we’d met—someone made him just for me.

From the very beginning, we’ve had best friend vibes. Whether we were bouncing a ball around outside of his apartment or lying in the grass on campus, while staring at the clouds, once we decided we were a couple, we pretty much did everything together.

I did that thing that a lot of people do—ignored whoever was a friend at the time and poured all my attention and energy into this new relationship. We created a bubble and constantly prioritized one another.

One time, when his friends were over having drinks, one of them kept asking me to grab him another beer.

“Aye! My babe is not the maid,” he replied, while gently stopping me from leaving the couch.

He saw me as important, and in that moment, decided I wouldn’t be treated any type of way.

I felt secure.

When he graduated, leaving me to finish two years of college and creating a 140-mile long-distance relationship, we remained committed to one another. We spoke on the phone every night, until our voices turned to snores. Friday nights, he arrived on campus as soon as he finished with work; Monday mornings he arrived back home just in time to clock in.  

We. were. in. love.

The three years prior to our marriage, we spent a lot of time talking. We still do. Whether it’s the big stuff, like abortion, religion, and politics, or concepts, like veganism and over-population, there’s nothing you can ask either of us that we won’t know how to answer for the other person.

By the time Dwight asked me to marry him November 1995, I already knew I’d say, “yes.” We’d talked about it. But I still cried. The whole ordeal seemed surreal. Even when we married the following year, I floated above our heads and watched myself utter those famous two words, and ride in a horse and carriage, and eat chocolate cake, and do the hustle, and…and…and. Even for my extroverted, partying self, our wedding was very performative, and I had a nagging sense it was unnecessary.

All I ever wanted was to be with Dwight, lying in the grass, looking at the clouds.

“Are you okay?” my father asked as he drove us to the airport for our honeymoon.

I always wondered if he saw the dream state in my eyes, the awe that any of this was happening.

“I’m fine,” I said.

Life buzzed by and we met the expectations of a husband and wife:

✅ 2 kids

✅ house

✅ dog

✅ bills

And the couple who used to walk in the rain, hand-in-hand, just because ceased to exist. Handwritten love notes attached to roses dissipated. Instead, we were replaced with society’s version of love and marriage. The world calls it “growing up,” but I call it a factory-model rendition of love.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I want to be clear. You can be in a committed relationship and never marry. You can marry and never have children. You can have children, be in a committed relationship, and never marry. I’ll stop here.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, I finally realized we could’ve done this love thing however we wanted. We can do this love thing however we want. Whether it’s walking in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica or biking on a trail at the beach, I hope we’ll spend the next twenty-five years making up ways to be in love…in whatever way best suits us.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

Monday Notes: Low-Maintenance vs High-Maintenance Relationships

A few months ago, I was talking to my daughter about some relationship challenges I was having. I’d decided I no longer need to be in relationship with certain people.

“I think it’s just COVID, Mama,” she said. “The pandemic taught me that I don’t have to be running around doing all these things for people.” Then, she added, “You know … it’s important to know which relationships are low-maintenance and which are high-maintenance.”

I’m not stopped in my tracks very often during a conversation, but that last part quieted me. I had to think about it for a second, and I told her as much. What does that even mean? Why does it matter?

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

What Does It Mean?

High-maintenance relationships feel tiring. I described one before when writing about my former best friend. She seemed needy and relied heavily on me as her “therapist.” She always had an issue requiring my counsel, but even after a great convo, for some reason, the issue was never resolved.

I’ve had other relationships that are accompanied with thick books for engagement of how to show up. These books included pages of rules not always aligned with my personality: Show up like this. Call on this day. Make me a priority all … the … time.

I’m sure I’ve been high maintenance to others. The tone of the text, the gloss in their eyes, or the exasperation in their voice proves it. Each says: What is it now? What more can I do? I followed the guidelines, but now there’s more. I recognize it because I’ve been that way with others. Like, dang … Haven’t I shown up enough for you?

Low-maintenance relationships, on the other hand, are synchronistic. Rules for engagement are intuited and easy. For me, this looks like reciprocity. Sometimes you pay for the lunch date, and sometimes I pay. Sometimes you suggest an activity for us to do, and sometimes I do. We equally hold space for the other person to vent. But we’re not venting all day. Most of the time, we’re having fun, laughing, talking, and sharing in life. Many of my friendships are like this. My relationship with one of my sisters is like this. It’s easygoing; there is little tension.

Why Does It Matter?

Step into this analogy with me.

A few years ago, I wanted a red, Mercedes-Benz GLK. I contemplated doing all I could to get one, until I spoke with my car-aficionado husband. Not only was general upkeep expensive, like always buying premium gas, but he also told me the car wasn’t reliable. If something broke down, then I’d be paying an astronomical amount for repairs. It was a high-maintenance vehicle I couldn’t afford.

Relationships can be similar.

High-maintenance relationships are expensive. You pay with your time. You pay with your energy. Occasionally, you actually pay with money. But I’m here to affirm this for you. If you don’t have the bandwidth, it’s okay not to have them. Your reason, whatever it is, is valid. Just like that Benz wasn’t the best for my situation at the time; sometimes, some relationships aren’t either. And that’s okay.


Post-script: There is no such thing as a no-maintenance relationship. All cars, no matter their cost or age, require gas and an oil change (or electricity and new tires) 😉