Monday Notes: It Was the Worst of Times

The world feels hella weird right now. Do you feel it? Is it just me? I partly blame the pandemic. It seems to be where things explicitly went awry on a global scale.

Politics, aside, living through a pandemic was weird and traumatic, but mostly traumatic. I’ve commented on a few blogs and other social media that I feel as if we all have collective anxiety (and maybe depression). During the height of death and disease, many of us suppressed our fears with booze and sourdough bread recipes. Do you realize that some of us didn’t even stop working? We Zoomed our way through, while people suffered and died with a new virus. Now, many of us are here, pretending we didn’t experience collective trauma: returning to school, working in person, and yes, like my husband and me—traveling.

It’s just weird.

As I write this, Hurricane Ian is headed toward Florida, the state where I live. In general, hurricanes don’t worry me. We’re in a city where we rarely see anything beyond a tropical storm, with high winds and rain. However, this hurricane feels different when juxtaposed against a pandemic backdrop. I mean, first comes the pestilence, then the natural disaster, right? I’m no bible scholar, so I’m not sure. But I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed toward religious prophecy. It’s the implication of the disaster that’s disconcerting, not the disaster itself. No matter the outcome, I’m sitting here writing an essay about how it feels, while Dwight works.

That’s weird, right?

Speaking of Florida, I’ve been meaning to tell ya’ll about how busy our governor has been. Since the summer, he’s disenfranchised teachers, women, and professors. His latest feat was accepting immigrants from Texas and flying them to Martha’s Vineyard. Normally, I would be outraged, but I don’t have the bandwidth. Politicians are stereotyped as those who don’t really care (democrat, republican, or otherwise); however, this seems a bit far. It seems common sense to me that physically using people as political pawns is unethical and shouldn’t be debatable. It’s weird that this isn’t a baseline of agreement, that there are people out here defending or deflecting the governor’s actions.

It’s also weird that I’ll be turning 50 next year. I’m a big birthday celebrator and party person. To that end, Dwight has something brewing…on an island. Pretty cool, right? Well, it would be if death and destruction weren’t constantly looming. The island on which we’d intended to celebrate is underwater: the media keeps showing a bridge floating in the ocean, separating the people and their access to the mainland. It feels selfish to plan a milestone birthday during these times, but you know, if the earth is still intact, I’d love to be sunbathing off the Caribbean. So, we’ve chosen a different place, one that isn’t in hurricane alley. This is weird. I know.

Do you know there’s still a war going on between Russia and Ukraine? Did you know there’s something going on with the United States and Taiwan that could result in a war…with China? Did you also know Nostradamus predicted the “Great War,” which philosophers associate with World War III? It’s supposed to occur in 2023…for seven months.

Weird.

I started to write “3 Ways to Live in Uncertain Times.” This is an inspirational blog, after all. But I couldn’t, mainly because I’ve only found one way. Every day, I wake up, look around, check the socials to make sure QAnon followers didn’t start an American civil war in the middle of the night or that the world didn’t fall apart, in general, then I start my day with goals, as if we’re not living in a pandemic, while facing natural disasters in every corner of the world, as we dodge multiple global wars. It’s probably a form of suppression or willful ignorance. Either way, I make plans, as if there’s a normal future ahead. Then, I repeat.

Weird, I know.


RESOURCES:


Monday Notes: Resisting Social Norms

The other day, I went for my biannual haircut. The difference is I’ve been growing my gray hair out since 2021. It’s blossomed a lot faster than I’d anticipated, adding about four inches of snowy white strands on either side of my head, and a salt-and-pepper effect from my crown to the nape of my neck. 

“I saw your pictures on Instagram,” my stylist said. “And I was like, ‘oh, she must done decided to let it all go.’” 

I laughed and assured her that was exactly what I’d decided. 

“It’s been harder than I thought,” I told her. “One time my husband looked over and asked, ‘are you just gonna have a big gray afro?’ But you know…I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do with it just yet.” Then, I confided, “I almost re-dyed it.” 

“Hmmmph,” she replied.

Usually, my stylist finishes my cut and dramatically swirls me around to face the full-length mirror. This time, though, she turned the chair slowly. “Yeah. It’s all just out there,” she said borderline dismayed. “You gotta do something: cut it, color it, braids.” 

“Do I?” 

“Yeah! You gotta give your husband something to look at, glrl. He don’t wanna see that!” she said, referring to my reflection.


People say a lot of things to me. I imagine it’s because I’m open to authentic conversations that lend themselves to a safe space for others’ internal thoughts. When these bursts of opinions occur, oftentimes I’m quiet. I don’t know what to say because so much is going through my head. That’s what happened the day my stylist told me I needed to give my husband something to look at.

I wanted to tell her that her perspective was based on society’s predisposition to bend toward the male gaze. Women are born into a system where we we’re taught to worry about wearing clothes to attract a man, but not wearing clothes where we appear like so-called sluts; female athletes adhere to dress codes that represent the 19th century, instead of the 21st, and still cater to wearing athletic clothing intended to appeal to men; as children, we’re taught to follow K-12 dress codes that teach girls their bodies are something to be policed because boys don’t know how to control their hormones; and we’re implicitly taught to dye our hair as we age, so that we can be more appealing…to men. 

But I was in a hair salon, not a lecture hall, so I said this, instead: “Luckily, I have high self-esteem.” Then, I paid my bill, shared a final laugh, and left. 

However, the thought that another woman, who is a licensed beautician, would suggest to me that the only way to be beautiful is to create an illusion with a cut, color, or braids weighed on me for a couple days. 

Here’s why.

Her comment implied that I’m less desirable, because I have gray hair. And that’s ridiculous. I have a whole-ass body attached to my hair. Since wearing my hair the way it naturally grows out of my head, I’ve also done the following with my body: straightened my teeth, embraced wearing high-waisted bikinis, and worn clothes that fit my personality. Also worth mentioning, my blood pressure, HDL, LDL, A1c, and weight are low. Lastly, I think I look pretty good.

Do I sometimes want my hair to be the reddish-brown color with which I was born? Sure. Gray hair does shift your appearance, but regardless, I’m me. Shouldn’t I love me—the way I look? Shouldn’t I appreciate how I look today, not long for the beauty of yesteryear? 

I don’t want to be too hard on my current stylist. I have nothing against her personally. She—like many of us—is a product of our society. Resisting social norms is hard work. Social constructs abound. Someone makes “the rules,” and we follow them. That’s why I started dying my hair in my thirties. Whether it was family, friends, or the media, I’d learned that gray hair was for a specific decade of life, even though the average age to begin going gray is in your 30s. So, when I found my first strand, I followed suit. I professionally dyed my hair so much one year, it fell out in clumps. You know who advised me to stop over-processing my hair? No one, not even the stylist I had at the time. Women, especially professional beauticians, condone covering up signs of aging, while simultaneously promoting the loss of ourselves and our own sense of beauty. It’s the norm. 

But I wish it would stop. 

I wish we could be happy just being our natural selves. I wish we would stop worrying about impressing men or other women. I wish we could look in the mirror and love what we see, no matter what. 


Abortion: A Return to Pro-Choice

I usually don’t post on a Thursday, but given the times we live in and circumstances in the United States, today it’s necessary. You may have read this personal essay already. If not, it has been re-published by Tangled Locks Journal to raise awareness and support organizations, like Planned Parenthood. Comments are turned off here and there. If you’re interested in reading personal stories centered on abortion, then please follow Tangled Locks Journal; they’ll be featuring essays as long as women’s rights continue to be disenfranchised.

Tangled Locks Journal

My father taught me about sex when I started my period. We sat on the loveseat, where he explained how menstruation worked, a banana balanced on his thigh. I suspected this was my mother’s idea, although she and I never discussed sex or women’s bodies.

My father explained bleeding meant I could now get pregnant, if I ever had sex, and that it was my responsibility to avoid such circumstances. A condom would do the trick. He pulled one out of his pocket, ripped open the small package, and showed me how to put it on the banana, a mock penis. I suppose he thought it appropriate to cram three separate topics – sex, safe-sex, and periods – into one conversation because we never revisited either again. But at ten years old, I couldn’t comprehend what fake penises and condoms had to do with the pain in my lower abdomen…

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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: On Aging (The Gray Area)

In the United States, there seem to be two choices: you’re either young, or you’re old.

That’s it.

When you’re young, you’re hella attractive. You have lots of energy and the latitude to make so-called “silly” choices—in music, in relationship, and in the overall living of life.

When you’re old, you’re hella unattractive. If you’re “brave,” you let your gray hairs grow wild and speak your mind like a toddler, but more often than not, the elderly are depicted as being crazy and forgetful pains that society either tolerates or ignores.

Well, what about people like myself, who are middle age? Where do we fit?

Kind of like my generation (X), I noticed we don’t fit anywhere.

On the one hand, I blame pop cultural and preformed societal views. We’re too old for skinny jeans, but not old enough for a Mumu. Too old for the club, but not old enough for the senior center. Too old to “start over,” but not old enough to retire.

On the other hand, friends and family tend to limit us. For example, if I decided to do a TikTok video for the Touch Down 2 Cause Hell challenge, eyebrows would raise. In fact, I’ve had people question why I even watch and know about these social-media challenges. I’ve never asked, but I surmise they think I’m “too old” to be aware. Based on the wide-ranging TikTok video demographics, I know this isn’t true. Anyone can lip sync and dance. But I do think there’s a reason why we’re so impressed when an over-fifty person twerks on beat. It’s seen as an anomaly.

Because I like to play contemporary rap music in my Jeep as loud as possible, my sister once called me a twenty-year-old forty-six-year-old. Maybe I should be like the phlebotomist I met who blasted the smooth crooning of Anita Baker’s love songs, or perhaps, I can mirror one of my favorite bloggers and deem only R&B from the seventies and eighties as respectable. Just kidding. I’m good with the music I prefer; however, I think others believe I’m “too old” to be listening to what I do…how I do.

If that isn’t enough, I have a thirty-something friend who has referred to one of her forty-year-old friends as “old and crusty.” She’s also admitted that she fears growing older and putting on a few pounds, possibly looking different than she currently does. There’s the other friend who has described her daughter as “cute and young,” while grumbling about how said daughter isn’t “like us…old” (and I assume not cute). And finally, there’s the friend who recently left me a birthday message deeming both of us as now “old,” because we’re approaching fifty.

It makes me tired. I’ve never spent so much time announcing that I’m not old or emphasizing that I’m getting oldER.

<insert big ole sigh and eye roll>

Let me leave you with this final story: A few years ago, one my cousins partied with me in New Orleans. He’s the type of person who stays on the dancefloor until the club closes, and this night was no different. He took up so much space with his moves that party-goers started screaming, “Go Old School! Go Old School! Go Old School!” in unison. It was like a scene out of a movie. He be-bopped around, sweat pouring down his face, shirt drenched. Then, he did it all again the next night.

Why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-age lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?

I’ve frequently thought about that night. Aging is something we’re all doing, every moment, but proclaiming to be old is quite another thing.

I’ve wondered why my cousin couldn’t dance his heart out without being labeled “Old School?” Why couldn’t he just be a human being having fun in life?

More importantly, why can’t we recognize there are more than two types of people? Pun intended—why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-aged lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?

Let me know what you think.


Here are some other articles from bloggers who discuss aging:


Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Routines and Other Self-Imposed Creations (Part II)

When I’m at home, I have a routine. I do some type of workout four times a week. Afterwards, I write in my gratitude journal, I light incense and meditate, and every so often, I do a tarot card spread. Then, I start my regular workday.

While I was in Central America, I rarely did an organized workout. In Costa Rica, it took two weeks for me to roll my yoga mat out on the upstairs patio and practice some poses. In terms of moving my body, Dwight and did several walking tours and hikes, lasting at least three hours. In Panamá, we took one to three-mile walks around the neighborhood during the week. And I thought to myself: isn’t this exercise? Not to mention, my diet significantly decreased in calories in Costa Rica. This was mainly because we didn’t have immediate access to a grocery store and sometimes underestimated the amount of food we would need for the week.

Instead of writing down five things I was grateful for each day, I started being grateful in the moment. For example, while I was doing yoga, the mountains surrounded me. That was dope, and I was grateful, right then. Oftentimes, I’d stand in the shower and think about how fortunate I was to be able to travel to another country, while maintaining material things back home (e.g., house, cars, etc.).

I didn’t bring any incense because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to light it, and it took me three weeks to pull a tarot card because I didn’t feel the need. Whatever I wanted to know, I intuited it.

Living this way reinforced something a medium told me last year. According to her, my spirit guides said I’m too regimented. They said I don’t need to sit down and meditate and do everything in such an orderly way. This message wasn’t just for me; she said no person needs to schedule time like this. It’s unnecessary. And now, I see what she meant.

This message was affirmed as I listened to a podcaster. She said, “If I don’t meditate in the morning, my day doesn’t go right.” I wondered if this was true. Does her entire twenty-four hours hinge on meditating for fifteen minutes? That’s a lot of pressure.

No doubt, there are times we need to center ourselves and become clear about our intentions in this world or get in touch with whatever deity we praise. But we’ve also created a system that we rely on a bit too much to live life. Consequently, this can cause us to forget to…live life.

While I was away, this idea was further affirmed through a conversation with my sister, who is Muslim. She decided not to celebrate Ramadan this year. She realized she was only doing it because she was Muslim. I saw our conversation as a clear message. Whether you believe in organized religion or not, you can make anything religious and then lean on that thing, the same way you would the teachings of Jesus or Allah.

Should I move my body every day? Of course. Do I have to spend exactly X number of minutes four times a week ensuring I do? I’m not sure. I’m starting to see this as a Western ideal we’ve created because many of us sit around too much. I’m now leaning more toward the idea of moving in ways I enjoy to remain active and mobile. I like riding my bike. I like practicing yoga. Sometimes I should pick up the pace a bit to work up a sweat. But I shouldn’t get myself into a frenzy if I don’t. It’ll be okay.


Monday Notes: 3 Reasons I Didn’t Watch the Derek Chauvin Trial

As I write this, it is Day 10 of the Derek Chauvin trial, I haven’t watched any of it, and I don’t feel guilty, either. Here’s why.

#1 Racial trauma: “Racial trauma refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and crimes.” It can occur directly, such as when people experience racism and microaggressions at the workplace, or it can occur indirectly, such as watching a white person repeatedly be acquitted for murdering a black person during public trials (e.g., George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, Timothy Loehmann). Racial trauma is real, and I decided ahead of time I had no intention of putting myself through it again.

#2 Who’s being tried? Every time there’s one of these public court cases, it seems as if the unarmed, deceased person is on trial, not the person who committed the crime. With George Zimmerman, there was a discussion of how menacing Trayvon Martin looked with his hoodie, and even though Zimmerman stalked him, there was confusion about who was standing who’s ground. With Darren Wilson, there was talk of Michael Brown selling illegal drugs. Even though I haven’t watched the Chauvin case unfold, I’ve been in the room when newscasters have recapped the day’s events. Apparently, there was a conversation about the drugs found in George Floyd’s body as a rationale for why he died. I can’t. It seems ridiculous to go through these theatrics when the world literally watched how Floyd died.

#3 The outcome: Again, I’m writing this on April 9th, and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. This makes me afraid and distraught. I fear what will happen should the American court system follow its own historical precedence, which is to acquit the perpetrator (i.e., Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam). Will there be riots if Chauvin is acquitted? Will it be American “business as usual?” Have vaccinated people gone on about their lives with no care for justice and its repercussions? I’m distraught that I even have these thoughts. The fact that I cannot trust the U.S. justice system to be just is disturbing. What does it mean for all of us, who collectively witnessed a murder, where the murderer may not be penalized? I promise you this is a thought that some Black people have had. We are all holding our collective breaths, because we understand what could happen. Conversely, if Chauvin is convicted, what does it mean that the world had to witness one man’s murder just for there to be justice?

All this upsets me, and I can’t expend my emotions in a daily frenzy, worrying about what it all means.


Tomorrow, May 25th is the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. I’m glad to see that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. I hope this means we’re turning over a new leaf in the United States, and even though this is an inspirational blog, I’m sad to say I’m not hopeful.


Monday Notes: Being a Woman: Facts and Receipts

Being a woman feels like being everything and nothing all at once.

            It feels like being the gender who bears children, but not being the gender who is protected while bearing children. Because any country that allows Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women to be two to three times more likely to die during childbirth demonstrates a woman’s value with each subsequent death.

            It feels like choosing a lauded profession, like teaching, which in the United States is seventy-six percent woman dominated but not being heard, paid, or respected, while educating the nation’s children. Mississippi teachers, for example, are expected to live off of $45,574 per year. It’s no wonder eighteen percent of U.S. teachers work another job.

            It feels like wanting to subscribe to a power higher than yourself, while signing up for your own oppression if you choose to worship with one of the top two religions. Eve is praised for being the mother of civilization, while being condemned for initiating the fall of man. A study showed that while there are ninety-three women in the Christian Bible, they speak a little over one percent of the time. This isn’t surprising as there are still seven religious groups that don’t allow women to be ordained; Islam is one of them. These may not seem like big deals, but implicit subjugation can be just as harmful because it is an indoctrination of subliminal messaging by which one may shape a future life.

            It feels like living in India where the very idea of having a girl child is repulsive and unwelcomed, where throwing acid on women’s faces is such a common practice there’s a name for it. It’s called an acid attack. India leads the world in these intentional crimes against women. Likewise, women are more likely to suffer domestic abuse and rape, while the justice system oftentimes acquits their husbands.

            It feels like the government regulating your reproductive rights for population control as they did with women in China from 1979 through 2015; it was called the one-child policy. And even though the Chinese government now encourages women to have up to two children, having a girl child oftentimes leads to infanticide and abandonment because boy children are preferred. Consequently, China’s demographics are now off balance; there are thirty million more men than women.

            It feels like fearing one’s life in South Africa, where femicide, the intentional murder of women, is five times more than the global rate; in 2017, every eight hours a woman was killed…by her intimate partner. If a South African woman does live, then she is likely to be raped, as this country was once considered the rape capital of the world.

            Yes, I’m convinced. Being a woman is like being everything and nothing all at once, like being the seed of civilization and the unintentional cause of your own damnation. At this point, I just have one request: Prove me wrong.


Happy International Women’s Day. We have work to do.

Monday Notes: Empathy

Tupac had a song called “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” I remember when I first heard it. I was alone in my dorm room.

It starts like this:

I hear Brenda’s got a baby

But Brenda’s barely got a brain

A damn shame, the girl can hardly spell her name.

I don’t know if it was the soulful harmony that preceded these words or the actual rap, but I was captivated.

The song goes on to describe how she didn’t know her parents. One of them was a drug addict. But here’s the kicker. Her cousin became her boyfriend and she ended up pregnant! And guess what? Brenda was twelve.

I remember being glued to the black and white video. Tears streamed down my face and I hadn’t even gotten to the worse part. Brenda had her baby, threw it in the trash, and then became a prostitute.

What in the entire…

Anywho, it was too much. And I remember it all. I sat on the edge of my bed and cried as if I knew Brenda personally. Even though I didn’t know anyone remotely close to a “Brenda,” I remember feeling the pain of being a twelve-year-old, who was pregnant with her cousin’s baby. And then I felt the pain of being a baby thrown away in the trash.

That’s how I’ve been my whole life.

Some may say I’m an empath. I’ve never claimed it. But I do admit to being empathetic. It comes naturally.

It doesn’t matter if I know your backstory or not, I have the ability to listen to what you’ve told me, recognize, understand and share your thoughts and feelings.

My problem, until recently, has been realizing that not everyone has this ability, which coupled with my (sometimes) judgmental nature, caused problems.

For example, when my father died, my cousins wanted my stepmother to pick them up from the train station. It was remarkable to me that they would ask a recent widow to do something more equipped for a Lyft driver. I couldn’t wrap my brain around why they couldn’t put themselves in a grieving woman’s place and sense she may be a bit too sad to function normally.

I recognized it again when my goddaughter brought her godson, Mark to our house a couple years ago. We were decorating Christmas trees.

Mark bounced around helping each person with their ornaments. He danced when we turned on some music, and when we watched Frozen, he belted out a song as if he was Anna herself.

But when it was time to go, he shriveled up like a roly-poly pill bug and sulked around the house until it was time to go.

And I felt his sullenness.

Without my goddaughter telling me parts of his homelife, I sensed that wherever he was going, there was no joy. For some reason, he was crying on the inside. He was more than just disappointed because he’d had a good time at our home. His sadness held an untold story.

“I feel sorry for him,” I said out loud.

“You always feeling sorry for someone,” a friend of mine replied.

I couldn’t understand how she or any other adult who witnessed the same Mark I just did, didn’t feel similar. Aside from my goddaughter, why didn’t anyone else feel his sorrow?

But now I get it…kind of.

For some people, empathy is a learned behavior that can be developed by reading fiction or purposely practicing how to walk in others’ shoes. It’s a skill, like active listening.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this information, though. On the one hand, I understand we can’t all go around crying over music videos and lyrics. On the other hand, I do wish people were more empathetic. It seems more empathy might create better families and communities…somehow.

So, I’ll end with the above thought and let you decide. Will empathy weaken or strengthen us?