Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

When Closure Sounds Like Grief (A Response to Adele’s Hello)

The internet has completely lost its mind after hearing Adele’s newest song, “Hello.” Remaining true to her style, Adele released a song that had everyone saying, “OOOOOOOOOH MY GAWD!!!!” for a host of reasons. When I listened, I felt happiness so I thought I everyone else did too.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was on Twitter yesterday when I realized that most felt a bit sorrowful. After seeing people’s reactions, I realized exactly why the lady in Walgreens looked at me like I was a complete nutcase. On the aisle right in front of the cereal marked two for $5, a woman said, “Excuse me? Who are you listening to?” I said Adele and she replied, “I thought so. It’s a good song. You must really like it.” This lady was worried because I happily sang/hum along to the beautiful music coming through my earbuds.

Who happily sings along to an Adele song outside of people who are plotting payback for the ex that broke their heart?

People who recognize that sometimes closure sounds and feels like grief.

So back to last night!

I shared that this song wasn’t really sad. Adele just has a voice that holds depth…like deeeeeeep depth. You hear Adele sing ANYTHING and whatever you thought you got over shows up like “NAH! YOU DIDN’T!” At this point, you’re left with only one choice – you have to ride with it. While cowering in the corner of your shower. And sobbing (like a G, of course).

That is…until yesterday. Hello is the song that everyone wishes to sing to their old self. It’s the conversation we wish would desperately get a response. This is when you want to say, “I’m sorry!” but you feel like you can’t. It’s when you live with willingly live with a regret that you don’t have to because you think approaching that pain would be too much to bear.

The thing Hello reminds us is there is just one person that can give you the response you NEED when it comes to moving forward from deep pain – You. So I wrote myself a letter (by changing the lyrics).

***

Hello.

It’s me. I’m surprised that after all this time you feel grief. There’s no need to go over anything. It’s true that Time Will Heal All Wounds and you’ve done much healing.

Hello.

I hope you hear me. I know that you spend time dreaming about who we’d used to be. When we were younger and wished for peace. I still remember how we felt when our world crumbled at our feet.

But I see the difference between us…and I’m glad you smile now.

Hello from the Other Side. I must have called a thousand times to tell you I forgive you for everything that you’ve done. But when I called you never answered at all. Hello from the Inside! I know that you tried. I know you wished you never broke my heart but it doesn’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear me apart anymore.

Hello.

How are you? It’s so typical of you to dwell on the past when there’s no need. I see that you’re well and I know you made it out of that hell and now look what has happened! It’s no reason to ever feel like we’re running out of time.

Hello from the Other Side. I must have called a thousand times to tell you I love you for everything that you’ve done. But when I call you never want to pick up. Hello from the Inside! I really see how hard you’ve tried. No need for sorry for what you think you’ve done. I love you. Please don’t let it tear you apart anymore.

***

What’s the one thing you wish you had the courage to say to yourself?

Click here to hear Adele’s new song Hello if you’ve managed to make your home under a rock and haven’t heard it yet.

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The Benefit of Humanity

Last night, I tossed and turned hoping that sleep would welcome me into its embrace. No such thing happened and I decided to write.

It’s hard to rest when your heart and spirit are weary. It is hard to breathe when it feels as though your chest has filled with water. I came to understand that my weariness was the realization that I could awake tomorrow to news of another “tragedy” and the feeling of it being hard to breathe was grief complicated beyond measure.

In Charleston, in a place of worship and refuge, nine Black American citizens gathered to safely study and learn of the grace and gift of God. They welcomed a stranger, as Jesus commanded many to do before them. They offered this stranger a place to sit and share and breathe and live. For an hour, this stranger did just that. And in an instant, the stranger became a terrorist.

Nine of those gathered within a holy space were murdered for merely existing.

As news of this tragedy spread along with the description of all victims and the sole perpetrator, I could see this to be a calculated measure spurred by the deeply entrenched notion of Black people as something to be feared.

Something. Not someone.

Like clockwork, media began to ask questions that I am sure are considered hard-hitting and cutting-edge to someone. Questions such as “What could these Black people have done to prevent this?” and “Should white people now be afraid of black people?” Absurd questions when you think of it because who would think that you would ever need to protect yourself in a place of worship that sits in a land built on freedom of worship?

Unfortunately, we then heard the questions, comments, and suggestions made about the man who murdered these innocent people. Things like “What would possess him to do this?” and “Maybe there is a mental illness that we don’t know about.” Most ludicrous of all were the statements “Allow him due process under the law.” and “Let’s not judge him in the court of public opinion.

This adult male, aged 21-years old at the time he coldly executed people in a calculated fashion, was given the benefit of his humanity.

Black Americans watched as many defended this many and simultaneously deflected the notion that it was a terrorist attack with racial motivations EVEN AFTER he admitted this to be the reason he murdered these people. Black Americans learned that there were people who knew about this plot for months but dismissed it as just “talk.”

Most offensively, Black Americans watched as the police apprehended him peacefully.

You see? Because of the benefit of his humanity, this man will see his day in court. And when he does, they will uphold it as evidence that the justice system is fair.

And so I write this as a reflection of what it means to be Black and a Woman and American and operate daily within a system that was built on the backs of my ancestors.

People do not care that I must grapple with my Black identity as I walk on streets named after Confederate generals who fought wholeheartedly to keep the institution of slavery as we learn about it in school in place (the North will have a day of reckoning behind their involvement in slavery).

No one bats an eye at the thought that we frequent financial institutions that descendants of slaveholders were allowed to open with wealth amassed while Black bodies were treated as chattel.

We are given weak apologies from some of the finest educational institutions in the world for their involvement in the dehumanization of Black people.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to move on and act peacefully in our grief as we point out that this is always about the fear of Blackness.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told these instances of terrorism that make the news are isolated incidents when in actuality they support the system of disenfranchisement upholding the status quo.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to erase our culture and identities as that is what makes us animals while being expected to swallow the offensive performance of Blackness executed by those who benefit from White Privilege.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are expected to go along with the “program” of acceptable outrage that demonstrates that you can be upset someone would wear fur but not that police will murder your children in the streets and let their blood run into the gutter.

Be quiet, Slave.

In the many institutions that make up the complex fabric of the United States of America, Black Bodies are seen as expendable, yet necessary, to move the wheel of systemic and systematic oppression forward. And we know the reality is we are not even viewed as human enough, worthy enough, to warrant outrage behind being slaughtered like animals. We are not seen as human enough to warrant the removal of offensive reminders of the past.

We are not seen as human.

The sad reality is that many who benefit from White Privilege view our mere existence as trivial. They do not see us as we walk down the street. They do not place money in our hands when we serve them in our jobs. They do not acknowledge the idea of personal space belonging to a Black person. And while there are a few brave allies willing to put their good names on the line for what it right, many of them unknowingly uphold the system that invaded our countries, the bodies of our mothers and fathers, and our psyches.

I sit with this heavy on my heart as I count down to another birthday, something the nine victims of an attack spurred by racism can no longer do. I have come to understand that my Blackness, as amazing and divinely inspired as it is, serves as an iron veil that would never allow me the benefit of humanity.

And so, I write their names below with the idea that it is just another reminder that they did matter. More than melanin and blood and bone, they were spirits who touched the lives of others. They were mothers who gave birth to children. They were fathers who molded the minds of those under them. They were neighbors. They worked. They loved. They hurt. They laughed. They cried. They welcomed strangers.

They prayed.

They were human. They were people. They will be remembered.

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.

Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 54.

Myra Thompson, 59.

Tywanza Sanders, 26.

Ethel Lee Lance, 70.

Cynthia Hurd, 54.

Daniel L. Simmons, 74.

Suzy Jackson, 87.

Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49.

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.

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.