My favorite and most valued gift by the aging process is a great big case of the "Fuck Its".
At 15, 20 and even into my thirties there was a great deal of energy put into what people thought of me and adjusting my life and thinking to accommodate the ubiquitous "them".
While everyone commented on how "nice" (the original definition of this word was "dumb") and pleasant I was, there was much upset and resentment waiting to be(unleashed). Creating a false persona allowed me to keep the secret (my being gay)hidden.
Being nice and not a problem, I could live and exist happily undetected.
This thinking kept me trapped in awful relationships and heinous partnerships.
People love it when you are eager to accommodate, cosign bullshit and engage in all manner of tom foolery. When I began fighting my way out of Mr. Nice Gay mode, folks looked at me with disbelief and many feigned shock.
When a person in a relationship makes a drastic change, all parties are affected, have reactions and feelings and ultimately must make some adjustment.
Nobody wants to adjust if their needs are constantly being met.
The ability to not give a fuck is a great section of the aging process.
When I say not giving a shit, it doesn't mean being an asshole which is a role people will attempt to assign you. The not-giving- a- shit means: I will not twist myself into a pretzel in an effort to get folks to like or accept me. It also means I will not hand over my thinking , self esteem or self validation to another and hope they come up with something grand.
Whenever I've handed over the reins of my life to someone, I have never been happy with the results.
When I've co-directed an initiative, my joy increased as a result of consistent and deliberate actions. As we age, there is less tolerance for foolishness and shenanigans with people that have no grand vision for their lives and whose concern in life is getting by with the least amount of intellectual or spiritual effort.
As I've aged, I have constantly and shamelessly asked myself : Is this activity something I want to engage in or invest my energy into ?
Is this the best use of my time?
Part of the aging process deals with the comfortability and brilliance that occurs when we make a decision to be bold.
You can't be bold if your primary concern is hurting someone's feelings or what they will think of you. There is really nothing better than making choices from a well thought out and guiltless position.
Aging has forced me to spend a whole lot less time being concerned with the opinions of others and most importantly, how I look to them.
Letting go of the crazed production that is "image" is also wonderful.
If I'm tired, I rest.
If I'm pissed off, hurt or confused, I can choose how I will address these issues with my husband, friends and coworkers. Sometimes a great big box of "shut the hell up" is required.
At other times, it is important to speak out and up and opt for deliberate and swift action.
My younger self had the need to constantly and psychotically remain busy at all costs.
Brene Brown says this is the new addiction: Staying busy so that we don't have to deal with the realities/truth of our lives.
I encourage all of you to embrace growing older.
Those of us who are most affected by this need to be "nice" (gays, women and minorities) should purposely and gladly welcome the attitude and power that comes from aging, being clear and the natural outcome that this provides.
If we have spent lives of dire desperation, anxiously awaiting for someone to give us permission to dream and accomplish heart passions, then the aging process can look pretty crappy.
There is nothing to dread or lament if we have lived lives of meaning and exploration that have allowed thinking, spirituality and self knowledge to grow.
During our lives, we will meet several people. Some of these folks we will know a lifetime. Some folks will be around for a good time and then dash when the first sign of trouble presents itself.
I have had several acquaintances and very few true friends.
True friends can save your life or at least make it bearable. I have laughed often with true friends. Cried with true friends about being misunderstood, lonely or scared.
At my recent wedding, I was able to bask in the love and support of many people.
I was able to identify the ones who were there for a good time, to see the house or simply to see two men get married and kiss.
Whatever the reason people decided to attend the event, it was quite an event.
Currently, I am examining all of the relationships in my life and asking myself some serious questions.
Am I at my best in this relationship ? Is this person bringing me their best and demanding that I do the same?
Often times we find ourselves ourselves in relationships of convenience. Relationships that suck the life out of us and are welcome distractions that move us into more nothingness and wasted time and life energy.
I have had many of these and most of them have been in the context of intimate interactions.
My recent obsession with true relationships and true love (which is one in the same to me) came to a head when I married.
Want to ferret out real love : drastically change the dynamic of a well defined relationship and watch the fur fly. People feign love for another and yet no vital and powerful test of their relationship has ever occurred.
It is easy to declare love when you are never challenged.
Because we are human beings, we have shit that is most unattractive and will emerge when given the correct environment to flourish.
Try to get emotionally close to someone and everyone's abandonment and "not enoughness" will appear in some interesting guises and in people you thought you knew.
Share your darkest hour and prepare for upset, anger, dismissal and in some rare and troubling instances, outright meanness and thoughtlessness.
This is the most frightening and exciting thing about interaction with other humans.
As an individual who is always pushing towards his own and the world's evolution, it is embarrassing to admit that there have been times when my envy and jealousy allowed me to go "on the attack".
While this was not my finest hour, I have learned that no one is above attacking another if change, abandonment or scarcity is afoot.
We all fear change.
We construct relationships on predictability. Things get real wacky when people get healthy, change the game or simply change the game's rules.
Many of us are assigned labels and characteristics at birth.
Several of us carry these ridiculous and arbitrarily assigned ways of being into the world and our adult lives. As a person committed to protean and relentless growth, I am often moving from one thing to another.
I look for the next opportunity to fail and or win big.
It takes a powerful warrior friend to walk with you as you explore all that life has to offer or allow your curiosity to lead you to the scary and unpredictable. Some folks only like it when you are fucked up, confused and emotionally stuck.
Having fought my way back from homelessness, joblessness, financial disaster and abusive relationships with cute sociopaths, I have witnessed the investment people (sometimes)make in the misery of "friends".
People that I thought were friends have said awful things with the underlying tone of "stay in your place ass wipe".
These are not friends or at the very least a confused friend who would rather not have things change. We must realize that we all have the capacity to fear and fight like the dickens to prevent change. We must realize that change is inevitable and is not the problem.
How we negotiate and respond to change is the most powerful and positive response when things and people begin shifting identities.
We must learn to welcome the new and not offer punishments to anyone who has the balls to dig deep and demand more from themselves and the world. Applauding and supporting the efforts of those we claim to love is the highest honor, a true and bold testament to what we think and want for the ones we hold close.
It (true friendship) demands that we honor all commitments and not simply flap our gums about what our friendships mean to us.
At a recent all staff meeting, there were some big,scary "what if" scenarios regarding "time management".
In my personal life, someone is always in a snit because I don't pounce on my phone like a trained, coked-up seal desperate to be included in every conversation and interaction.
I often "unplug" on a regular basis because the day job is rife with problems no matter the type of interaction.
It's very popular these days to let people know how "busy" you are.
It is time we got honest about the phrase "I'm busy".
I'm busy is a very polite way of saying to another person: Who you are or What you have to offer holds no value for me.
Much like the definitive : Maybe (which according to the sublime Les Brown is really a polite no) this is a way of trying to be polite which is often code for "lying".
When someone says their busy, I go to a particular place in my mind. My mental translation states: this request is not important to you.
We all make time for things we find significant, particularly if there is some type of payoff for us.
When things are of value, we move heaven and earth to make sure whatever needs to get handled gets handled.
What people are not telling you is that they would rather be doing something else. We can take it personally or thank whomever for their honesty and commitment to having a real relationship.
The next time you ask someone to do something or you ask for a favor and someone trots out that tired chestnut, one up them with : What could I say or do so that you see the value in what I'm requesting ?
This year, I will not say: I'm busy.
I will either agree to do something and do it or graciously and unapologetically decline.
My need to explain, justify my choice or lie to save someone's feelings are a thing of the past.
My no will be a real no and my yes will be real yes.
Most of us hide behind lies to save feelings.
As I turn 47 this year,the lies are over. The masks are now coming off.
It is time to stop using "busyness" as an ineffective panacea for everything.
White Supremacy has to be the greatest invention mankind has ever created.
I made the decision years ago to be more powerful than this invention, remain vigilant and "awake" and stay away from self defeating paranoia.
My commitment to uprooting its seductive powers is based on relentless decolonization.
My obsession with the collection and use of decolonizing strategies often leads me to great thinkers and bold visionaries (bell hooks, Melody Hobson, Brene Brown).
Recently, I was able to take in a day of their thinking and use it when discussing race, gender and non oppressive child rearing with family members.
Most of our relationships and ways of interacting are steeped in dominator culture and are manipulative and subterfuge based.
No where is this more prevalent than in our attempts to cross racial boundaries and construct mutually satisfying relationships.
While most people rarely move beyond the comfort of their familiar cultures, there are those who dare to do so and spend much time justifying their choices or proving their loyalty in an effort to gain trust and acceptance.
When this occurs in the context of difference, there is an opportunity to be color brave.
Truly valuing another involves the willingness to be wrong and misspeak as well as the courage that is required to forgive and recommit in solidarity.
It always amuses me that people call themselves friends, road dogs and besties and yet never disagree, argue or hurt one another's feelings.
Unless you are spending time with a clone of yourself, there will be misunderstandings, an occasional verbal misstep based in a ridiculous assumption and the need for forgiveness and the willingness to choose a shared commitment over an isolated incident.
Forgiveness is never easy.
It is particularly hard when it involves someone you deeply love and feel ought to know better.
It is easy to discuss nothing and keep things light when you are only interested in a coffee klatch friendship with no real value.
We all have a choice to make daily.
Do we lie and avoid a confrontation that might upset another or do we stand bold and dare to test our level of courage and the foundation of a particular friendship?
How are you being color brave?
Do you stop a friend from stating something racist and stereotypical?
Do you challenge folks (white and black) when they state that there is no more racism?
The bravest thing we can do is usually the most uncomfortable.
We learn to avoid racial discomfort when we are young.
When we prevent children from discussing and recognizing differences in cultures, skin color and other obviously different ways of being, we miss a valuable opportunity to instruct our young folks in recognizing fear and domination of the other.
Many assume that racism will never go away and anyone who assumes conversations and sharing will eliminate dominator culture is a pollyanna just waiting to be disappointed.
People can change and do things differently.
When I taught high school English classes, I reminded my students that while change is often challenging, it can and is incorporated on a daily basis.
To illustrate this point, I discussed life before the internet or call waiting and being able to see the person you are speaking with on a handheld device was considered Science Fiction.
By limiting our contact to small boxes in our homes and offices, it becomes very convenient to dismiss one another, attack and deny another's existence or never discuss our "problems" with difference as it pertains to race.
Those of us who choose to love across racial lines often do so without clear understandings what this will cost and what we will ultimately gain as a result.
We often jump into situations that allow for fun but limit our capacity to be changed and transformed by another.
It is very easy to start a relationship based on desire and or mutual interest.
It is more difficult to maintain its integrity and allow it (the relationship) to grow and transform all involved if the point of connection involves a silent agreement that racial differences not be addressed.
Many men I’ve dated would rather die than be labeled a racist.
The major problem with this thinking is the all or nothing American view that says: if I’m not calling you a particular name or burning crosses on lawns or voted for Obama(twice) and am enthralled with Oprah then there is no evidence of any “perceived” racism.
While many of the men I’ve dated would never come out and be blatantly racist, there were several small and pivotal ways racism invited us to look the other way when daily mishaps occurred.
An agreement to not notice or engage with different viewpoints, outlooks on culture and food are a few of the seemingly innocent ways that we attempted to “just get along”.
These odd and limiting choices left me dissatisfied, bored and intellectually and emotionally stunted.
Being color brave provides the space to seek and demand transformation of ourselves and those that we say we care about.
There will be mistakes, misunderstandings and many times wherein the easiest and most comfortable thing to do is remain quiet, crack an inappropriate and diversionary joke or simple assign the other person the role of bad guy (asshole, crazed angry black woman).
This is cowardice at its most deadly.
Being color brave means we move into the uncomfortability that is dealing with race in America.
It also means that we question those, ourselves included, who believe that racism in the U.S. is over and no longer has any affect on our day to day interactions and decision making.
bell hooks recently stated that it would be of use to ask people why it is so important to believe that racism is a thing of the past and has no bearing on our collective realities.
Collectively our identities are bathed in the belief that if things aren’t talked about or spoken of then everything must be great.
There is also the agreement that if whites don’t bring up race(which prevents the possibility that they might misspeak),they won’t be labeled a racist.
Those of us who are racism’s targets believe pointing out racism and its many forms will label us weak and whiny.
Everybody on both sides of the fence also believes that pointing out racism will label those who have failed to achieve as lazy and unmotivated.
Demand that it not be done to you or in your direction and replace the finger pointing with some serious commitment to improving your relationship and transforming your lives with the goal of solidarity being the end point.
When I taught the homeless population, I began each new class by stating : I want you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It is time for us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and brave enough to be involved fully with the unfamiliar.
Dear Ms. Davis,
I am a huge fan and am writing this letter to let you know a couple of things.
First, you will win an Oscar or three as I said in my title.
You are too present and wonderful in everything that you do. I have been acting for seventeen years and know of what I speak.
Your day is coming. I can't wait.
I would like to extend an opportunity to do all that I can to make sure that this occurs.
I am a writer with his eye on getting into USC's Screenwriting Program in the very near and immediate future. I have been thinking about what my next move creatively would be and watching you on screen inspired me to truly go for it.
Between us they won't know what hit 'em.
Recently a great friend who writes scifi fantasy (see my review for Solstice 2/29/12) wrote a kick butt article about not only the lack of roles for black actresses but also the depth of the roles they are "allowed" to play and or get offered.
On a Tavis Smiley interview you mentioned that a majority of the roles you are offered are peppered with ebonics.
I write in a number of voices and would love to see you play the femme fatale ala Eartha Kitt.
You could definitely do this and you won't have to do this alone. Did I mention that I would be starring in this with you ?
How sublime you would be in a role playing someone wicked, cunning, driven, smart and unapologetic.
Having read so much Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams during my theater training, I could truly envision you reeking havoc and enjoying every moment of it.
A very layered and nuanced Matriarch who does what needs to be done much like Ms. Houston in The Grifters or Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones.
You have inspired me to keep going. Have you considered episodic tv ? Something where you would have to save the world on a weekly basis.
Keep an eye out for my script, it's on the way.
As an adult who is passionate about children and how they learn,grow and succeed, my desire to ingest material that explains the discrepancies in education and how to effectively eliminate them is a major obsession.
We don't know how to ensure that our young people are successful and yet we constantly engender failure in them at every turn.
When it is not ok to risk something and mistakes are not allowed,we fail our children.
When certainty and worry about and over concern with being labeled a "bad parent" rules the day how can we effectively respond to our young folks.
As a new teacher many years ago,I was instructed to hunker down,crack the whip and show the little monsters who was in charge. No one every thought to address how being in charge limited children's ability to question and think. There was never one discussion regarding how to encourage curiosity which can and often does lead to new and innovative approaches to problem solving.
As parents and caregivers to young people we will all screw up.
There will be times when you are a bad parent and your thinking about what your child needs and the best way to address those needs is skewed.
The real mistake is thinking that if we create an image of success at all costs that everything will be fine.
If we want our children to face failure as an opportunity to learn,we must model this same behavior and way of approaching the world.
My two oldest grandchildren struggle with school not because the material is that challenging.
The difficulty arises from the silent message that it is not ok to not know things.
When we worked together over a year ago on a project,it was very important that mistakes be made and learned from not avoided.
More than a year later there is still much self esteem as a result of this endeavor.
We must move beyond the need to please the ever present they (haters and nitwits whose concern is looking good not supporting personal and emotional growth in our children) and into giving our children what they need the most to succeed in school and life.
Paul Tough(How Children Succeed) states that one of the most important ingredients in rearing children is grit (the ability to wrestle with a challenge and self assess what is needed to turn things in your favor).
Teaching children to not allow fear of the unknown and failure is impossible if we (parents and those that love our babies) have not moved beyond this limiting and binary way of viewing our lives and the choices we make.
Someone told me years ago: Children are short not stupid.
If we want our children to succeed,we must allow them to feel the other side of the reality : failure.
I understand the difficulty in watching children flail about,make less than stellar life choices and decisions purely based on emotions and instinct.
Years ago my mother begged me to leave credit cards alone.
I needed to look good.
Four years,eight credit cards,some serious debt and crappy jobs that paid nothing squashed the need to look good.
I realized that I should have listened to her wise and dramatic warnings.
She offered me the best life lesson in my Forty Five years of living.
She let me get myself out of debt slowly and painfully.
While I am not currently debt free, my relationship to and management of money has been fundamentally altered. I am not where I would like to be financially but I am closer than I have ever been as a result of that brutal and well timed lesson.
It is the same lesson that I have tried to impart to my youngest sister and all the young folks I meet.
I offer assistance by offering the opportunity to build inner resources so that no matter what happens,my young charges will know that they can figure it out.
We want to offer strategies for building a solid inner core. Building a solid inner core does not mean that mistakes are never made.
It means that mistakes are welcomed and encouraged and a misstep is not a reason to wallow in failure.
A misstep in its proper connotation simply means that something was overlooked, forgotten, or not considered.
A person only thinks like this when they have been given or taught the concepts of grit, curiosity,self assessment and that failure is a place to visit and learn from not set up a permanent residence.
It is our belief in our ability to figure things out that makes life and failure and the upset it causes sweet.
I probably shouldn't tell you this... Today is the 30th post and the end of my focus for now on black men, police brutality and the fight for justice that will continue albeit in another form. For now, I want to leave you with a list of ten brave soldiers who lost their lives in the battle to create change.
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Juliette Hampton Morgan
Reverend James Reeb
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Viola Gregg Liuzzo
Reverend George Lee
Harry and Harriett Moore
Keep Fighting. Winning over Injustices. Demanding Change.
When you have invested your heart into something working out a certain way, there is always the possibility that things will not work out or worse yet they will change without your knowledge or consent.
This type of fear is rational and should not cause us to behave in ways that are less than sparkling.
People get very confused when it comes to fear and what needs to be done when we are blindsided by it.
Most of us stop thinking and revert to reptilian responses that include but are not limited to : running away, avoiding the thing that has scared us, making another person wrong (assigning blame), bulldozing over people or in the most extreme cases, immobilizing ourselves (hoping that in freeze mode know one will see us or expect any action).
There are as many ways to deal with fear as there are people in the world.
What if we encouraged people to be afraid and plow into what scares them the most ?
What if we raised our children with this balls-out approach to dealing with what they feel menaces them the most ?
We could have a very different world.
Persons who move from this way of being live very full lives. I am striving to be one of those people.
It is my goal to find what scares me and take it to the mat. Fear is an indicator that change is inevitable and typically forthcoming.
Sometimes when I am feeling bored (which is rare) , I know instinctively that I am not challenging myself. When I am in resistance to taking action, it is usually regarding the fear that I could fail, screw some shit up.
Once I determine the fear is that a) I don't know what I'm doing and b) I might fail, my next step is usually to metaphorically leap into the pool with arms a flailing.
Most of us do the opposite.
Our stomachs turn so we stop.
We opt for a brownie, a nap, anything at all to prevent moving forward and taking on the beast that stands before us mockingly beckoning us to our undiscovered genius and greatness via the uncomfortability that fear creates.
When I'm comfortable, I'm not moving or growing.
We either progress or regress.
It has taken me several years to figure out which type of fear is begging for attention and just as many years to decide how I would offer attention.
As I whip through my 40' s and barrel towards my 50's, I fight daily to make sure that I do not back down and figure out ways to answer my own call to greatness.
I often write about death from the perspective that people aren't afraid of death (it's inevitable so why worry) that folks are really afraid to live.
If you had six months to live would you waste time being afraid ?
Along with the commitment to mental health, we must also take charge of our physical well being.
Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure,stress (the body's reaction to carrying more than it should, thanks bell hooks)and cancer are just a few of the things that seem to attack us and take us out in grave numbers.
Black and male does not have to equal unhealthy and walking health risk.
Making our health a priority will be against much of what society says we ought to be doing.
I wrote about my hatred of and being terrorized by a doctor in my post Why HIV Infection Rates are Up for Young Black Men.
We allow ourselves to be bullied and silenced by things that matter.
Like a whole lot of black folks I know, I only make trips to the doctor when I'm in pain or something bothers me.
As a race, we have been socialized into believing that health concerns and any sign of physical need is sign of weakness.
Coupled with the racism that many doctors have not unlearned and you have a context in which care is unimportant and to request it makes you less than.
We must realize that it is our right to live and feel well.
At 45, I know many people ten years by junior and ten years my senior who are on a host of meds.
My mother was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure by a doctor who wanted to put her on meds.
My mother refused and instead countered with a response about whether or not there was an alternative.
She and the doctor designed a program that included exercise and slight dietary modifications (my mother is a strict vegan and only eats what she grows or trades with others).
Weeks later, the tests proved that the new program worked and there was no need for medication.
We are not obliged to a life of labored living and struggle simply because of our skin color.
Whenever I meet or talk to someone about health issues, there is always a correlation between either something they're doing or something they should stop doing.
I learned a great deal about diabetes from my cousin and very close family friends. I was unaware that this disease can be managed by eating healthier (processed foods being the biggest issue here) and consistent exercise.
I thought it meant a life with no desserts.
High Blood Pressure ?
I didn't know that laying off the junk food and salt along with moderate exercise once again would do the trick.
We also underestimate the stress brought on by our jobs, day to day life and of course our families.
Preparing for my recent wedding brought this little gem front and center.
Speaking with various family members (who all had opinions of what I should be doing or should have done) taught me some serious lessons in how to remove stress from my life, be clear about my expectations and not take care of grown ass people's feelings and thoughts.
I took care of myself in familiar ways that I know work.
I did more walking during this time.
I talked with supportive friends.
I took more baths and prayed more.
To combat the inevitable weight gain (my response to stress), I stopped going on about not getting to hot yoga and instead starting walking on the track at my new job.
Based on American standards of what healthy looks like, few of us fit the bill.
As we make our physical and mental health a priority, there is nothing that can't be accomplished.
More than unemployment, lack of education, racism and housing issues, being physically healthy with strong adept minds will allow us all to take on forces that threaten our well being and support others in doing the same.