A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

To #RachelDolezal and Her Defenders

For the past couple of days, I’ve tried to wrap my mind around why the #TransRacial (what does this even mean?) scandal centered on Rachel Dolezal truly and deeply offended me. In the beginning, I was one of the people that made the joke of “Well it’s possible. She looks like she has a little black in her.” I even began the fun of asking her questions about Black Culture on Twitter prior to the #AskRachel tag becoming huge. Even still, there were moments I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it bothered me so much.

That is, until I briefly saw a comment on Twitter, which suggested that Ms. Dolezal experienced a sexual trauma/assault which caused her to assume an identity other than the one she was born with.

That struck a nerve.

As a Black woman born a Black girl and raised in traditional gender/societal norms, I was deeply offended that once again the idea that Black women and girls are undesirable was once again at the center of someone’s caricature of us. Why else would someone fully assume an identity of the lowest on the societal totem pole if it were NOT to be seen as unattractive?

That stings.

Some Black women can be seen as smart (that’s okay – look at First Lady Michelle Obama). Some Black women can even be seen as semi-attractive (look at the men who covet women with the exotic look of Kimora Lee Simmons and Lisa Raye).

But never both though.

Perhaps what stings more is that there were people whom others respected with a major platform defending the work that Dolezal, a white woman pretending to be Black, offered in support of the Black community. Once again, White Mediocrity was allowed to be held up as something magical because “at least she did something” and “she’s doing more for us than we are doing for ourselves!”

To that, I wondered, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!”

Or even still, the idea that this White Woman with her Swedish last name and her blue eyes that she NEVER changed (light complexioned black woman privilege anyone?) deserved to be defended by Black men. “What’s the difference between her assuming a Black identity and Black women wearing blonde hair?” many asked.

Beside the fact that our undesirable, Black ass hair that we were born with still kinks naturally even though it may be dyed a different color? You are stupid. That’s the difference.

To see that some believed a White woman in her Fantastical Black Womanhood was worthy of defense because of her White virtue by people who look like me, talk like me, and were brought up in Black Culture like me (a naturally born Black Girl who was raised to become a Black Woman) was disheartening. Read that twice in case you don’t get it.

But then I realized this:

Her actions were both reprehensible and wholly irresponsible. Not only that, she lacked personal accountability and basic respect for a culture and people she claimed to care about and support. She is not an ally. She is not a magical being that has done remarkable work which has led to systemic change that will improve the lives of those of darker complexions.

She is regular, run-of-the-mill, “let’s go back to the good old days,” American white bread ass mediocrity.

She is not Black Excellence. Dare I even say it? She isn’t even Black Mediocrity. She has diminished the value of women who are already viewed as less than. And if you defended her and are present in the lives of young Black girls and women, you should be disappointed that you would even allow defense of this woman to escape your lips.

Advertisements

Happiness in Depression

It has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

In the past, I have talked about issues surrounding mental health and I have even shared some of my personal struggle with anxiety and depression. Most of the time I have done this from a comfortably disconnected point of view and I have tried to stick with writing objectively when the worst of an “episode” was over with.

In this instance, things are different and it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

Currently, I sit in the reality that I’m a Black Woman with Clinical Depression.

And it’s hard. And it’s heavy. And it weighs on my chest. And my back. And my spirit. Just about my everything because being Black is hard enough. Struggling with mental illness is hard enough. Couple the two? It is a heavy “cross to bear.”

However, this is my truth.

The “mental illness” isn’t even what makes this so hard. It is not the fear that people will shun you because you acknowledge that you sometimes feel that God has forgotten about you. It is not that people are uncomfortable being around you when you are “like that.” It is not the awkward silence after being completely honest about the fact that even though you smiled when you said hello, you feel empty as hell on the inside. That’s not what makes this hard.

It’s the happiness.

Most people view depression in a very stereotypical way. They picture someone who can’t/won’t get out of bed and take care of their most basic needs. They think of someone who won’t wash their hair or brush their teeth. They think of a person who cries constantly. They think of someone who wears all black and isolates themselves from the world. They think of an energy vampire.

They think of the type of person they would never want to become emotionally — the person that is so overwhelmed that they just shut down. And that’s wrong.

Clinical depression, or any kind of depression for that matter, can be those things. But that is never what makes it hard, at least not for me. It is the huge disconnect between my mind/logic and my spirit/emotions.

It’s being able to laugh from my belly. It’s being able to tell a story and get others to do the same. It’s being able to smile. Or sing my favorite song. Or dance around. It is that even though I can wrap my day in a million happy moments, at the center is this one thing that I can’t “fix.” This feeling. This….ugh.

And if you ask me what that “one thing” is, I would never have a real answer for you because it changes in the moment.

Which is what makes all of this hard to talk about.

As I sit here trying to piece my thoughts together, the question I keep asking is, “What do you want them to know?” I want the people who love me to know that depression and happiness live in the same space and that it’s hard to explain it. You get it if you’ve felt it; and if you haven’t, you’ll know it if you ever do.

But what I want people to know is not the same thing I want people to understand.

I want people to understand that depression is not void of happiness. I want people to understand that people go on living every day as though nothing is wrong, even though it seems their outlook is bleak. I want people to understand that while I laughed a minute ago, I was in just as much pain as I am when I don’t. I want people to understand that sometimes I want to be taken care of sometimes and not the person that takes care of others all of the time. I want people to understand what it means to embody and practice compassion and patience.

I never have enough of those things for myself.

Most of all, I want people to understand that happiness and depression can inhabit the same breath.

And that’s what hard about it.

Dump That Baggage

The other night before bed as I was listening to my favorite Angel Card Reader Michelle P. on YouTube, I was struck with this image of someone struggling to let go of something material. Immediately, the image of the traveler who overpacked their luggage became super clear. And I had to laugh.

The reason? This is me and so many of y’all. We are so content with being that Weary Traveler that we are willing to miss the journey of a lifetime because we (vehemently) refuse to throw away something that can be replaced with another AMAZING thing!

In life, we hold on to problems and issues that have already been solved (again, I am SUPER guilty of this). We fear that we didn’t get the right answer from the lesson and/or we did not like the outcome. Instead of accepting things as they are, I’m talking really accepting it, we continue to play our “hurts” over and over and over and over and over adammgain. Now, this isn’t to minimize the very real aggression against our person that can happen, it’s to point out that many times, we are the very roadblock to our own blessings.

Another image that popped into my head is that of a fisherman who caught too much for his little boat. As he starts to row toward shore, he realizes his boat is sinking. Rather than throw back some of the fish, he attempts to save his boat by using a pail to remove water from the boat and put it back in the ocean.

So what’s the message? Like the weary traveler and the fisherman, we are willing to forego amazing experiences because we want to hold on to what’s in front of us AND what’s inside of us. We’ll be taken care of, not just during the trip, but at our destination. But we refuse to realize that and try to rearrange our baggage to trick “karma” into thinking we are ready for the something amazing. Yet that’s not how it works.

So our lesson? Let it go. Those problems have been handled and we are already healed. Don’t be afraid to throw away what you don’t need because you are comfortable with it always being there.

I say this with love – LET IT GO! And watch, as my Mom says, it get greater later.

~Ms C. Jayné

Today’s Lesson: Being Human & Loneliness

At the beginning of December, I injured my foot to the point that I’m on crutches. Since then, I’ve had to rely on people for just about everything. And I’ve realized that I feel like I don’t really matter to anyone.

That’s not to say that people don’t care about me. Their willingness to “help” says that they care. But people can care about you and their actions can say you don’t really matter. You’re probably reading this like, “But what do you mean? That makes no sense! How dare you be so ungrateful!!!”

What I’m saying is that this injury has forced me to be completely human. At work, people constantly let doors close on me or jokingly “complain” they about helping me. At first, I thought this bothered me because the shit is old and tired. Then I realized just how much I’m asked about my foot or how often someone mentions what they have to stop doing to help. And that’s what I mean when I say I don’t matter.

And in being completely human, I’ll admit that I don’t like the icy, cold, impatient or critical reception that I receive from dealing with people I care about on a daily basis. I guess for me, it’s reciprocity or whatever. But if I don’t understand anything else, I get this one point…

I don’t really matter to people that matter to me. And that hurts.

Today’s Lesson: On Competition

Definition: (as we know it) the activity or condition of competing; (in ecology) interaction between organisms is which birth, growth, and death depend on gaining a share of a limited resource

Yesterday, I made up my mind to stop competing. This isn’t to say that I give up on anything. No, it’s quite the opposite.

In deciding to not compete in anything, a weight was lifted from shoulders and I literally let out a sigh of relief.

As a Reformed Perfectionist, deciding to not compete chipped away at the final piece of insecurity that fueled many of my actions. It was almost as though I understood that subconsciously agreeing to compete in life meant that I showed the Universe I was willing to settle for some fleeting recognition or a prize that could easily be taken away. By not competing, it shows that I know I deserve everything I want plus greater.

Do yourself a favor today. Resign from the emotional turmoil that comes along with senseless competitions in life.

The Thing About Depression…

It starts as a creeping thing slowly moving towards you. In the beginning, it is encapsulated in just one bad thought or a few negative whispers. But just like a changing tide, it will slowly grow to become something that engulfs.

You feel swallowed up. And insignificant. And tiny. And alone. And that’s where the danger lies.

Because when you’re alone, you’re left with your fears and no way to fight them. On some days, you’ll be courageous to share something — a thought, a question, a tweet, or a status — and it is in the responses from others that you’re knocked to your back. And a rock is placed on your chest.

“I hope you get the support you need.”

“Change your thoughts.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

When in those moments you want more than a generic message in the moments of passing by.

A phone call that you might be brave enough to answer. A letter that you might find some joy in returning. Or a hug where nothing is said at all.

Because depression counts on the advice to highlight your shortcomings. The philosophical banter that is void of emotion feeds it as a mother nourishes her child. Solemnly, dutifully, and with purpose.

The thing about depression is that one day, you’ll feel your heart beat in your chest and it aches. Because you negotiated the night before to a god that no longer hears you. Angels will have become stoic in matters that relate to you.

The thing about depression is that you go through your days for the benefits of others because it’s no longer a reason for you to be here. And it is at this point you will wish for the happy ending. The question will come up though — what if there isn’t one?

And tears will well up in your eyes but never spill because it takes even too much to do that. Things that you want to scream to people who love you will become lodged in your throat. New hurts will expose old wounds and more of the emptiness will seep into you.

You’ll ask for courage. Or time. Or love. Or hope. Or respect. Or to be remembered.

Because depression will tell you that you can’t have it all. And in these moments, you’ll see flashes of people saying, “We didn’t know it was that bad for her.” Or him.

And your soul will want to scream. But the layers, the blanketing of the feeling will be so thick that everything is muffled. Even in death, everything is muffled. When truth is in the faces of the ones who said they cared, it will still be silenced.

But before that moment ever arises, you’ll wish for rose-colored glasses and childlike innocence. You’ll negotiate once again for another dawn and morning and afternoon and night. You’ll get a glimpse that hopefully things will be better.

You will be better.

You will determine in your mind that a day will one day come and you’ll no longer feel outside of yourself while still engulfed in despair. You’ll pray and you’ll hope that the god your mother knows hears you. And answers you. And loves you. And releases you.

You’ll try conversations again. You’ll try phone calls again. You’ll try letters again.

You’ll laugh and recognize a melody that belongs to just you. The light that everyone else sees or feels? You will know for yourself that it is real too.

Until then, you’ll quietly wait. Because the thing about depression?

It’s always there.

In This Moment, Your Best Is All That’s Needed

Today is an off day for me. I woke up and my energy was low. I realized that feeling “concussed” was probably responsible (not looking forward to the possibility of visiting someone’s ER if I don’t start feeling better). That energy has since followed me into this morning and I felt it was going to be “one of those days.”

To be honest, I was a bit really sad about this. I made this “To Do” list last night and then I woke up this morning feeling not good. I found myself crying as I got up to start my day. I was tired and to top it off, I was feeling not-so-smart. There was even a little voice in my head saying, “I told you that you weren’t going to do it. Just be mediocre because that’s all you are any way” (even though my self-talk is improving, it is still pretty cut throat).

But I decided to keep going any way. Actually, I didn’t decide. My inner will wouldn’t let me stay still.

As I got up to get ready for church, I turned on my #RadicalSelfLove playlist on Spotify (thank goodness I started it two days ago) and told myself that my best in my present moment was my best. That moment was paramount.

I needed those words.

So I decided to jot a few notes and then transfer them to a post because maybe someone else needs to see that.

Your Best in Your Present Moment IS Your Best. It’s All That’s Needed!

I felt pushed to share and so that’s what I’m doing. I’m still not having an awesome or great day but I am putting my best foot forward. And that’s all that’s required.

You Shouldn’t Complain!

That’s probably the phrase I have heard in life that I dislike the most. When people say it, even with their best intentions, it’s almost as though they brush your feelings of a particular situation to the side. The phrase that goes hand-in-hand with it is, “But it’s all in your head.”

What does it mean to complain? According to the Merriam-Webster Online, it means two things:

  1. to express grief, pain or discontent
  2. to make a formal accusation or charge

After reading this very simple definition, I decided to look up the etymology (the history) of the word and found that it meant “to lament,” and to speak of something “from the breast.”

For a moment, I was a little upset. I thought to myself, “Why are there people who say you shouldn’t complain? Do they even know it means something this simple?” The more I thought about it, the more agitated I became. After about 15 minutes, I decided to make this my morning topic. For 30 minutes, I would write about my feelings on a person’s right to complain.

To start with, know that I believe every person has the right to express their feelings of their current position in life. A person’s feelings about their reality are valid and should be respected as such. Period. 

For me, it’s simple. It’s point blank. It’s black and white. It’s your life, you live it and you can express your feelings about it. What I can do is help you try to find a solution but I’ll never knock what you bring to me. Why? Because there are many times I feel I can’t even express how I really feel about something without being told to “suck it up” or “it’s all in my mind.” Right now, I’m a jumbled ball of feelings thinking about a conversation I’ve had with a person where my concerns were dismissed. It was hurtful.

I finally get why.

To say to someone that they shouldn’t complain about something is dismissive. To say to someone that it’s all in his or her heads (or minds) is ultimately disrespectful.

I get that many people who express their dissatisfaction of hearing others complain simply want them to see it from a different angle, but have you thought that maybe they need to get that out before they can?

Have you thought that maybe the person trusted you enough with their experience of life to be imperfect and share their dissatisfaction only to be reprimanded about an emotion and observation?

Have you thought that maybe by sharing that they are unhappy they are trying to find another way to experience life? That this is their way of asking for your help?

Or are you too self-absorbed, too self-reliant, too evolved, too “loving” to acknowledge that sometimes people have bad days and that’s okay?

Are you so happy that you can’t be bothered with another expression of human existence?

Are you so mentally stable that you can’t fathom why someone would think a particular way about a trial they are facing?

I wish people understood that when a person’s feelings are dismissed as irrational, childish or unnecessary, you have served to do more harm than the good you wish to do by helping them to see a bright side. Instead of telling people they have no room to complain, we should start our conversations of loving grace with something that lets them know we understand why they would feel the way they do and we accept them in that moment.

On the Topic of Validation

Yesterday, I realized I don’t like the word validate. Usually, when I’ve come into contact with it, it’s in the form of another person asking why I need outside people to “validate” my thoughts.

What’s more trying about having a conversation on “validation” is that it’s usually a person who wants to seem really self-assured or they are pushing their level of consciousness on you. It’s almost as though you become less “evolved” or less “aware” by recognizing something that they consider validation.

One: that annoys me. Two: that’s not what I’m usually speaking about.

But what started this? I mentioned on Twitter that a lot of what we think about ourselves isn’t considered true until someone else confirms or agrees with it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I should have explained it this way:

In this existence that we live, social interactions dictate two things – how we think of others and how others think of us. It’s not validation in the sense of “I can’t ever say this about myself until someone else says it about me first.” It’s validation in the sense of “I still think this theory/thought/assessment is right but now someone else thinks so too.”

I guess this is the Scientist-in-a-Past-Life inside of me. I don’t think of validation as some ill that we should shy away from in our personal growth. I think of validation in the sense of a science experiment. Your life experience will dictate more than a few hypotheses (educated guesses about anything) and you receive validation about the extent of your educated guess from others. Here’s an example:

You think of your self as being a kind person (this is your hypothesis). You meet person A who confirms (validates) this for you by expressing they believe you are a kind person. Your self-worth isn’t hinged on their assessment – your educated guess was just validated. Then you meet person B who also says you are a kind person BUT offers you another perspective of yourself (or a way to be more kind) through your interactions. Meeting person B doesn’t mean you are not kind, it just means you have work to do and you can be more kind.

And that’s what I think of when I call to mind validation.

The way I see it, there is nothing wrong with validation. It’s a tool for self-assessment and growth. Honestly, if validation were as big of an issue as others make it, then we wouldn’t even have the entire consciousness movement – which is a constant stream of validation (if you ask me). I think we should move the conversation from “Why do you seek others’ validation?” to “What are we doing with the information that the Universe validates for us?”

If that makes sense.

Removing Labels, Accepting Imperfection and Rewriting Your Story

“My imperfections made me perfect for this assignment.”

Lisa Nichols

On today, I made the decision to rewrite my story. For the past couple of days, I’ve been experiencing a shift. Granted, I’m sure it has been going on for quite some time, but I literally feel different now. I feel…well, there is no other way to describe except by saying it’s different.

I don’t feel lighter. I don’t feel heavier. My energy just feels different. It’s almost as though it’s begun to embrace me fully and I’ve subconsciously decided to just go with it.

That’s why I decided to rewrite my story. In the past, I’ve lived my life in a way that meant I conformed to allow others to feel comfortable in their space. My epiphany today was that it is much easier to be someone’s statistic than to inform others that those stories and experiences are only things that happened to you – they are not you. Because I’ve felt different, I’ve started to really question, “Well, if I’m not those things, then what am I?”

It’s a hard question to ask when you have become used to being the child of an alcoholic. Or the girl who was homeless in high school. Or the girl who was abused by her alcoholic parent. Or the girl who is the product of a rape. Or the girl whose father was unavailable until he was ready to be around. Or the smart, funny girl who wasn’t exactly unforgettable.

For a long time, I’ve allowed my experiences and labels to define me. I would tell my story to other people and whatever they decided to attribute to me was fine. Sort of. It was comfortable and it made sense. Slowly, I’ve come to realize that even though the labels “made sense,” they didn’t fit. It’s almost like buying a pair of shoes that work in the store but pinch your toes when you wear them with the socks you really like. They fit…but they are tight. And it’s too late to take them back because you wore them.

That’s what a label felt like to me. They were okay but they were uncomfortable. They helped me to sort out and place my emotions. But it still felt like something didn’t click. And this is what I came to understand – a label is convenient. But what a label does is reduce you to something less complex. Labels reduce the glare of “imperfection” from the picture – you can acknowledge it but don’t point it out. Labels remove a piece of your humanity. Ultimately, labels define your existence from another person’s perspective.  You accept them and you’ve allowed others to write your story.

The space that I’m in now doesn’t want me to do this any longer. I can’t continue on the path that will take me to the life I want if I continue to define myself as the experiences I’ve lived through. Yes they happened to me…but they aren’t me. I have a lot of healing to do still but accepting this truth makes things a little easier. A little. My imperfections are what they are and I make the choice today to remove the labels for the sake of other’s comfort.

I don’t know if this made sense because I feel like I’m rambling but I had to get this out. Remember your imperfections. As Lisa Nichols said, “They made you perfect for this assignment.”