Monday Notes: BOTH/AND

I’ve been living in a space of both/and since 2020. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been living in this space for a while, but I decided to be more blatant about the message December 2020.

I started with a photoshoot.

When I planned to take photos, I knew I wanted to wear something a little edgy to represent my personality. A friend and I saw these faux leather leggings at a Jacksonville boutique.

“These are perfect!” she screamed.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What about my belly?”

You see, ever since I gave birth via C-section in 2001, I’ve been leery about showing my midsection. For some reason, the obstetrician didn’t have the good sense to sew my lower abdomen back how he found it. No amount of Crossfit or crunches can mend it.

“If I had your belly, I’d buy five of these,” friend said.

Perspective. It didn’t matter. I can be both sexy and show my fupa…in public.

The next thing I wanted to convey was professionalism on my terms. The last time I took photos, I was entering my writing persona. I wanted to convey confidence and a personal identity. You see, my mother’s side of the family retells a story about how decades ago, one could tell women who were ladies of the evening by the color shoes they wore—red. The problem in my mind was that I’ve always been fond of red. But who wants to be associated with prostitution? In 2016, I decided a white suit, red blouse, and red heels were symbolic. I could be both educated and stylish…in red shoes.

This time around, I was truly exhausted by all of the rules we put on ourselves and others. I mean, you don’t have to wear a business suit to mean business. Do you? A black, denim jacket with puffy sleeves seemed ideal. I could be both business minded and unconventional.

Finally, I wanted to convey my love for reading and writing. I also wanted to show that you don’t have to look a certain way to be a reader or a writer. I know this is common sense, but for some reason, it seems society views readers and writers in a stereotyped way. Maybe it’s because in reality only 5% of traditional publishing includes Black people, or maybe it’s because of media portrayals. I mean can you name three characters in a series or movie who are depicted as loving reading or writing who are not white?

Apologies for that major digression. My point is I wanted to be photographed among the stacks (of a bookstore) on purpose. I know librarians and people who work at bookstores have been stereotyped as having top buns and looking over readers, but again, I wanted to shatter that myth—for myself. I don’t have to fit a mold to be an avid reader or a successful writer. I just have to love books and write.

So, yeah. Both/And.

I can be both sexy and a certain age with childbirth scars.

I can be both professional and wear a puffy, black denim jacket.

I can be both an avid reader and writer and be my regular Black self, two-and-a-half-inch patent leather heels and all.

What are your both/ands? And if you have a few movies or television shows that depict Black characters who love to read or write, drop them in the comments, so we can all be more aware 😉



Monday Notes: Relationships, Love, and Such

More often than not, I have a little bit to say about a lot of things. I thought I’d share a few with you.

If we treated our girlfriends half as well as we do men, then women relationships might improve. Three years ago, I visited a friend in Sarasota. After the four-hour drive, I did as I sometimes do, stopped by her home first to pick her up for lunch. When I got there, she’d just finished her workout.

“Are you about to take a shower?” I asked, giving her athletic gear a once over.

“No! All I did was walk,” she said.

“If I was a man, you’d take a shower,” I replied.

She agreed but didn’t shower, and the above thought was born.

Why do we (sometimes) get all dolled up for the opposite sex but show up any type of way with our girlfriends? Is it comfort? Value? Societal teachings? For me, how I arrive depends on the event, not necessarily the company I keep, but in general, I show up freshly washed, with a nice outfit no matter if it’s the love of my life or a good friend.


If you love someone, then you’re implicitly saying you accept who they are. You can have acceptance without love, but you cannot have love without acceptance. For example, Dwight fully loves and accepts who I am. He encourages me to be myself, even if that means as he says it, “cussin’ a —- out” because he knows I’m fully capable of that behavior. But that doesn’t stop him from loving me.

People mistake how love and acceptance can show up, though. I have a cousin who lives with a mental illness. I love her like a sister, and I accept this part of her, but because I know her mental health can be overwhelming, I carefully choose when and how I will interact and be with her. Sometimes we forget we can choose how to be in people’s lives, and these choices have nothing to do with how much we love or accept someone.


Why is it we want our partners to have character traits we don’t? Why is that? I know people who desire vulnerability but have trust issues. I have friends who want a specific level of intimacy but don’t seem to know how to cuddle, show affection, or open up. I wonder if, when we seek a romantic partner, we’re seeking to fill a void of something we think we don’t have.

When Dwight and I first met, I wasn’t as self-aware, and consequently, I didn’t know how to be myself. He, on the other hand, seemed very confident in who he was and clear about what he would and wouldn’t do. Did I unconsciously seek someone who possessed the very things I needed to develop? I also wonder if helping one another to grow is more of the point of relationships, as opposed to racking up and celebrating years of companionship…like a prize. Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Let me know what you think.

Mental Health Matters: No More People Pleasing!

My mother used to tell a story of when I was in pre-k. When she picked me up, the children played on the lawn, pretending to cross a bridge. I was the bridge. I lay flat on the grass, while my friends walked on me.

Even at four years old, I demonstrated the lengths I’d go through to be liked. My desire only increased as I aged.

By the time Dwight and I met, it was easy to switch out a short, honey-blonde hairstyle for longer, brown tresses he’d once commented he preferred. I traded my red lipstick for a natural brown color and stopped wearing bright green shorts for plain, denim ones. I faded into the background of life to ensure he’d always like me, ignoring the fact that he liked me when we met.

I’d mastered people pleasing beyond marriage.

In 2016, my director invited me to a party seventy-two miles away in the city where I work. I didn’t want to go for a few reasons:

  1. The party was Saturday and I received an invitation Wednesday.
  2. It was seventy-two miles away.
  3. I only knew the host.

I discussed it with a friend of mine, who insisted I should attend because of work politics, and…well, because I was invited.

To be clear, I had a good time. In fact, I wrote about it here. But why did I go? Although attending had nothing to do with work, I wanted to be seen as a good employee and a well-liked person. I also didn’t want to disappoint the host.

People pleasing ruled again.

That year, I also published The Unhappy Wife. The number of friends, family, and bloggers who read and wrote unsolicited reviews surprised me. Everyone engaged, except…my husband*.

By self-admission, Dwight reads one book a year. Additionally, he’s not fond of creative nonfiction. But I didn’t care. I obsessed over the idea of him reading and reviewing my book. I needed his opinion. I wouldn’t let it go until I knew what he thought.

I’d argue most of us would want our significant other to read our work. However, something more was happening here. I sought external validation in the form of praise, which is another form of people pleasing.

That was four years ago.

Developing self-worth and establishing boundaries have compelled me to stop living to please others. These three ideas work together.

Because I value myself, I no longer seek external validation. Though I’d like for my husband to read my words, I don’t ask anymore. If he reads this blog or latest publication, I’m excited when he mentions it, but I don’t need him to perform an act to make me feel good about myself.

Because I’d created time and personal boundaries, I knew when my director invited me to another party, I didn’t have to go. I didn’t need to spend three hours on the road and another few hours socializing with strangers to prove I was a good co-worker, associate, or friend. Another strategy I’ve mastered is not explaining my decision. As Oprah once emphasized, “No is a complete sentence.”

Because I’d worked on knowing myself and developing a sense of identity, I’ve returned to wearing red lipstick for no other reason than I like it. Bright colors have crept back into my wardrobe because I like them. And I wear my natural hair in a unique short precision cut because I like it. Each decision is a manifestation of my personality, which is now clear to me.

Here are other actions that have been helpful:

  • I take my time to answer when someone asks me to do something. Let me sleep on it is a useful phrase.
  • I prioritize my own needs over others’ feelings. If staying at a hotel is more relaxing than someone’s house, then I do that.
  • I make more decisions based on emotional, professional, or personal effects and fewer on how I will be perceived.

Finally, I now know the most important person who needs to like me is…me. Others’ affection is a bonus. Releasing people-pleasing behaviors is a third practice that’s helped me to be less codependent.

Finally, I now know the most important person who needs to like me is…me.

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Let me know if you’d add anything else that’s been helpful for you.

*Dwight read The Unhappy Wife about five months after publication and it taught me an invaluable lesson about external validation.

3 Ways to Develop Self-Worth

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Monday Notes: New Mantra

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.”

biggest_fan_2So, 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?

Self-Love Series: Importance of Self-Love by Michelle Tillman

When we try to live life, it strategically sets us on an evolution of the following:

  • Becoming
  • Being able to self-love
  • Learning how to self-love

My dogs died in my early teens. My grandfathers died in my mid-teens. My grandmothers died in my early twenties. My dad died when I was twenty-three years old. My first real love and heartbreak was at seventeen years old.

love_yourself_wandaThose events began to shape my heart. I know that the word adopted is fundamental in my love language. Being an adoptee pushed me or taught me to appreciate who I am and to love who I am becoming. As love began to hit me in my adult life, I learned how to hone in on the pain and the feelings of rejection, albeit most times this reaction taught me to deny the why of everything. I know that when rejection hurts it can nudge, push and pull us in dark and undeniable places. I have learned that someone’s rejection of me is neither a detriment towards me, nor should it be an obstacle for me.

I am learning that God has prepared us and purposed our lives in such a way that there are no coincidences. Our choices place us on different paths other than what we ask for. Divorce happens. Love is hard. Life creates a ménage of events that leaves us breathless, yet we do not know what life will entail. We are incapable of learning and knowing without going through the process. Life leaves us faultless without a covering, healing is necessary.

Each wound teaches us a different way to love ourselves. Lessons teach us that we are not who we were, but we have become on a grander scale. We are evolving, all within understanding our feelings and emotions. As our faith deepens, our spirituality matures. Our way of thinking impedes upon us to do better, to be better and not to remain stuck in a painful way. It is our divine responsibility to take care of self, to love ourselves-to learn how to love ourselves.

God created us to create. God created us to love. His greatest commandment is to love one another as you love yourself. That I believe is one of the hardest mandates He gave. In order to love ourselves, we have to be aware of who we are. We have to know what makes us tick, how we are living this life is ever-growing, ever evolving-there is no mastery to loving oneself.

We do not come into this world knowing how so we allow the hurt, the pain, the wounds and the disappointment to redirect us into a whole other realm of loving, of living, of thinking. In order for us to love ourselves, which God requires. If I love myself, there isn’t any way that I am going to maliciously, purposely and with intent harm you. Learn to practice self-forgiveness on a daily basis. Do no harm.

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(Shared for Forgiving Fridays)

Self-Love Series: Journey to Self-Love by RayNotBradbury

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One of the lessons I quickly learned in my formative years was that life can be unfair. As a little girl, I’d been told that I must be gracious, soft, and empathetic to all. To always offer a welcoming smile. To be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. And I did just that. I became a sort of expert who had perfected the art of loving others. People were drawn to my positivity. Don’t get me wrong, it was as pure and real as they come. I wasn’t faking my concern for people. And it was truly fulfilling being a beacon of light and support for others. But after a while, I began to experience an undesirable side effect. I became drained and discouraged, almost to a depressing degree. I needed love too! Looking back, I realize that feeling was inevitable. I’d learned how to love others but had no idea how to extend the same to myself.

Nowadays, I’ve learned to strike a balance between how much of my energies I dedicate to others and how much I reserve for myself.

I’m happier with myself now and…I don’t feel drained so often.

But, this only happened when I began to learn to take care of, and most important, love myself. In our overly narcissistic and self-centered world, such can appear an unseemly venture. But like everything in life, a healthy balance is all I endorse. I needed that phase. And I’m pleased to share a few cool things that I discovered on my journey to self-love:

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  1. It begins with a deliberate effort. If you’re like I was and prone to caring for others to the detriment of yourself, you’re going to need a deliberate plan to cut that off. Decide that you will love others, but also purposefully love yourself.
  2. You must respect and value yourself first. Have you ever had nice and expensive plates and cutlery? Or perhaps something else that meant a lot to you? If you did, I’m guessing you took great care of them. Why? Because things of value are worth giving the utmost care and attention. You are valuable, my friend. More than any of your possessions. You should love yourself.

Eat like you love yourself. Move like you love yourself. Speak like you love yourself. Act like you love yourself…and LIVE like you love yourself.

  1. It helps boost your self-confidence. Deliberately loving yourself helps you feel great about yourself. You begin to take on your daily tasks with an air of assuredness and positivity. And very soon, others can notice this new lease of life as well. You tend to laugh more, glow more and feel healthier.75ecf687-0ddb-4da5-82c5-54c2f6a7b41d-800-00000076c2d844d1
  2. It helps you become a more mature person. When you embrace self-love, your outlook on life changes, and you become a better and more mature individual. The opinions of others become less significant to you and you become more conscious of the things you spend your time and energy on.

And in the end… guess what?
To love yourself helps you love others better!

This was my most shocking discovery on my journey to self-love. The more I loved others, the bigger my heart grew to care for others. I was happy and fulfilled inside, so it became easier to get others to partake of the same. After all, it’s said that you can’t give what you don’t have…

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https://raynotbradbury.com/

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@RayNotBradbury

 

(Shared for Forgiving Fridays)