While every interaction is a type of communication, I am learning to be direct, deliberate and clear when I speak.
In my day job, it is not uncommon to speak with forty different people during an eight hour workday.
Each person doesn't hear what I say they screen what I say through their personal history and life experiences.
When we choose honest and clear communication, we increase our chances of making personal and professional improvements.
When we are determined to create wonderful lives and kick some serious butt in 2016, we do not allow confusion to remain.
We share, experience and demand clarity at each gathering and interaction.
We can always choose to stop communication, think about what's has been said and ask for things to be repeated.
Most of don't communicate well because we have not made this a priority nor have we, en masse, mastered the fine art of truly, deeply listening to one another.
We wait for the other person to shut up or their voice to trail off so that we can jump in to correct, offer suggestions or recant a similar experience of our own.
We look for inconsistencies or lies and play detective.
Be a true ally.
Try listening with your heart and not a mind that has no use for fresh, innovative perspectives.
If you're making a decision while I'm talking, you ain't listening.
At my day job, I am constantly tasked with heart listening.
Heart listening means I am not sending emails, texting or otherwise engaged no matter how busy I am or what needs to be done.
Here's a solution:
For the next week, put on a great piece of music that you've heard a bazillion times and listen with a different set of ears (heart listen).
I tried this once with Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and heard some things I had never heard before and was brought to tears.
I now proclaim this the year of heart listening and incredible change.
When we really listen, we will be shocked at what we can learn and how similar we are.
Rather than listening to judge, listen to love. Increase your compassion and dare to listen without distractions and agendas.
When I was jazz/blues singer, my teacher was constantly ranting about "opening our ears" and allowing this experience to take hold of us and change us.
I suggest you do the same.
Most of us make resolutions drunk on champagne and the belief that with hope as our guide, we can make the impossible possible.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its brilliant creator, Joss Whedon, brought a blonde female super hero into our living room on Tuesdays for six incredible seasons.
I initially balked at the idea of this young girl saving the world; I decided to take it on as my guilty pleasure once it hit syndication in the fall of 2001.
Besides all of the snappy one liners, cute outfits, butt kicking and hot boyfriends, this show spoke to me about the human condition in a very specific way.
Given the responsibility to save the world, she dealt with the worst in human beings in the worst environment ever: high school.
She is required to keep her identity a secret (hazards of the job)and navigate two extremes (high school and preventing the world's destruction by battling the forces of evil) without them intersecting.
When the series ended: she had battled a bazillion bad guys, stopped umpteen apocalypses and died twice.
She took care of friends, dealt with her own self doubt and raised a teenage sister.
It was the final season that really catapulted me into the rabid fan I am today.
In one episode she states: "We will seek out our darkest, biggest fears and face them".
Fast forward seven years and I am broke as hell, with no job and sleeping on a friends floor (21st Century version of homelessness).
On more than one occasion, I would remember a powerful line from the show to get me going and inspire myself to keep on pushing.
I love saying that Joss Whedon inspired me and gave me insight (via a fictional world) that all things are possible. I could go on about how the writing was so great or the character development was outstanding and why his fireplace should be overflowing with Emmys.
Instead, I choose to focus on what I learned from this show.
Joss Whedon allowed us to look for and expect power in all the forgotten and dismissed places in the world.
Whedon forced me to push past the limits of my imagination while viewing Buffy's weekly trials and allowed me to use this in my real life crises of finding work and a stable living environment.
Remembering that many people did not appreciate nor understand Buffy yet greatly needed her thinking and muscle to save them, I reminded myself that although people didn't see my gifts that didn't mean they were nonexistent.
When I was told fifty times in one day that I had no marketable skills, I fought back (using the chutzpah gleaned via Buffy Summers) by sharing my skill set and why it was significant.
I requested assistance (from the 50th person I spoke to that day) in learning the new verbiage that would allow me to be heard and my skills seen.
In a huge battle scene with a formidable and seemingly unstoppable foe, Buffy remembers her greatness and takes on the beast with these wonderful words: I always find a way.
After some time, all of the Buffyisms and hard work paid off.
I landed a great job that I took from part time to full time with benefits in less than a year, moved into a condo , bought a car and met a wonderful man who I eventually married.
Surviving and thriving despite adversity takes dedication and an unwavering sense of your own power and abilities.
Surviving and thriving forces us to dig into our inner resources (courage, perseverance and determination) and change the course of our lives.
Make this your motto: I always find a way.
As a black man, there are certain things I am supposed to know and not need.
As a gay man, there are certain things I should crave.
As an artist, my psychosis (according to popular legend) is what makes me create and is the excuse for anything dangerous, self hating or odd that I exhibit.
Every black boy who then becomes a black male in society is traumatized to some degree.
We are herded into institutions that fear and shame us that are run by people who don't understand us nor make attempts to address our particular sets of needs.
Many times I have heard educated, black folks who are raising our beautiful black boys refer to them in ways that indicate they (black male youths) are violent beasts who need constant watching over, correction by adults and can't be trusted to make great decisions.
I have rarely heard anybody say that young black males need the same thing everyone needs: Love, a sense of belonging, and guidance based on the belief in their inherent goodness.
What I have heard offered for young black males is that they need "structure"(translation : domination and an obsessive approach to their subjugation early and often so that they will not be problems or a bother to anyone).
Having survived childhood and now thriving in adulthood despite all of the obstacles and dumb ways that people tried to "make me into a man", I know from a lived experience that a whole lot of shit goes down when people are around men.
Men, listen up! There are a gazillion ways we can fight back, reclaim our humanity and make the world a better place all at the same time.
I am a firm believer in therapy and that it works.
We must build our love army with folks that have nothing vested in our not being " right in the head".
It is imperative that we marry, partner and befriend people who want and expect the best for us.
While it is not sexy or socially acceptable to crave and fight for mental health, it is needed.
We, as men, must demand that our pain be heard and addressed.
As men who want to change the world and ourselves, it is our duty to seek out and adamantly commit to our mental health and emotional maturation.
We can't be wonderful partners in world change when we haven't changed ourselves.
It is time for men and those that love them, not lust after them or need to manipulate them but deeply love them to demand that we make mental health a priority.
When men decide to be healthy in all incarnations the world will change.
It is not ok that men are left to figure things out.
This is an arena that we have been conditioned is not our right and it should be organized and maintained by someone else.
Every male I know, myself included, has childhood wounds that cause problems when there are attempts to establish relationships that demand closeness, vulnerability and trust.
So much of what prevents men from fully showing up is our shame.
Professor Brene Brown states that shame in men shows up in a distinct way: don't be perceived as weak.
Many men feel the need to control others perceptions of them by: having all the answers for everything all the time.
I would love to challenge this frightening and limited stereotype by simply showing up and saying : I don't know.
As men, it is imperative that we refuse to suck it up, pretend things don't hurt when they do and demand that our emotional needs are met without having to bargain away parts of our soul to do it.
Seeking the help of a professional counselor allows us to reevaluate our childhoods and determine the best course of action for addressing our needs.
Gentlemen, it is ok to cry. We have to change ourselves first and then the world.
Most black folks who love, respect and need the approval and validation of their families don’t spend much time challenging the wisdom and insight of their elders.
When we are depressed, Big Momaisms tell us to get something on our stomachs (let big momma make you a cake); pray to Jesus (turn over all rational thought and decision making to an outside source who will fix it for you) and attend church more often.
I have heard black folks quote bible verses and spout the always popular: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I have seen folks suffer for years because they refuse to step outside church and family rhetoric and realize that (1) Nobody’s coming and (2) They better switch up the way they handle their affairs.
For many years, I honestly believed Jesus would fix it all.
And if that didn’t work, I could always go for the big guns, Jesus’ daddy, God.
While I have nothing against Christianity, I have seen it used to justify all sorts of foolishness and mistreatment of humans.
When something bad happens, I often see black folks say Satan never sleeps or we’re being tested.
When something wonderful occurs, we often trot out the immensely popular:blessed and highly favored.
What Christianity and several religions fail to point out is the common denominator in all situations both good and bad: the man in the mirror.
While I have experienced all kinds of life challenges, I’ve only learned and made better choices when I’ve owned my part of the situation.
Once I stopped waiting for Jesus to fix me, things began to change.
At 14, I began attending a very prestigious all boys high school. I knew nothing about studying, social codes and rigorous academic achievement.
My fist year’s grades were abysmal.
After failing History and being ordered to attend Summer School, I had a choice to make. I could continue to think the instructors would change what they were doing or I could change what I was doing.
Miraculously, I figured out how to study History and my grades began moving into High B status. Within weeks, I was heading towards A status.
I have watched family members and friends suffer needlessly.
I have watched people endure awful relationships and then pray that the other person gets their mind right.
What if God and Prayer aren’t enough?
This world is full of wonderful emotional and mental resources.
What if we prayed to find a great mental health expert, then started looking for and then found one ?
Mental Health must be as important to our community as church, tithing and making sure our pastor has what he needs.
It is time we stand up in our faith and demand more from those who say it is there “calling” to alleviate suffering and uplift the community.
You cannot be black in this culture and not have been psychologically, emotionally and spiritually attacked, violated and diminished at some point.
The very existence of this culture depends on it.
As a result, it is imperative that all black folks seek some type of ongoing spiritual and emotional uplift.
If we are lucky, we will unearth an individual who encourages a blend of spiritual undergirdings with emotional and psychological tools for well being.
Hopefully, we will find a therapist who believes in prayer and action. Community and solitude.
We must remember that the black church has been extremely pivotal in our survival.
We must refuse to use it as a crutch and instead tap into the strength it can and should provide which will allow us to take on personal and communal challenges.
During the Civil Rights era, people prayed then marched.
We are not in a position to choose one over the other.
We must have both: a strong spiritual base and an ability to take powerful, determined well thought out action when needed.
When depression hits, a warm batch of cookies and bowl of ice cream won’t eliminate it. I know; I’ve tried.
What you will need is an ally whose purpose is to remind you of dormant skills and any source of unused personal power.
Religion and therapy should encourage everyone to become self reliant.
It is time we stopped hiding behind Jesus and the pulpit and instead used these entities along with a great therapist to face our personal and collective crap.
Anthony is interviewed on the show "Journeying with Dr. Ni" on BlogTalkRadio.com. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.
It is always a thrill to meet someone who thinks, acts and challenges themselves and the world. Please have a listen and get inspired to create change in your life and community.
Is it time to change your life?
During the course of my first relationship, I would deal with the coming out process, AIDS, and developing relationships wherein my sexuality would not cause anyone problems or upset.
I also learned all the lies required to survive: distancing myself from flamboyant queens, switching pronouns when speaking in mixed company, avoiding family gatherings and the question: do you have a girlfriend ?; coming up with great reasons that me and some guy were always palling around.
I tried to "pass".
There are gay men who not only can't pass but don't even try and I applaud their courage. These brave individuals take to the streets, get in the face of our oppressors and often demand and institute change.
There are others who quietly go about their lives cloaking themselves in what society deems appropriate and move about undetected and many would say safe.
When people come out is another tool used to divide an already divided community.
While I am familiar with the power that accompanies "coming out", I also understand the fear and trepidation this engenders.
Many of us learn to lie early and often via our parental units.
We are encouraged to manipulate and psychologically disappear.
Is there any wonder so many of us enter chronological adulthood while remaining intellectual infants ?
When it is demanded that we, as Nathaniel Branden would say-play dead, there is little impetus to stake the claim that being gay requires.
Folks who come out later in life are awarded many privileges for bowing down at the throne that is patriarchal domination and assimilation.
While no one will address the effects this has on the individual who denies who he is at the core, it often leads to some serious acting out.
I have had more than one conversation with men who are constantly cruising for cock who are willing to risk death and sex offender status for sexual contact with other men.
When men come out later in life, it is typically not without some thought as to what will be lost and what will be gained.
What our older gay community needs is not a barrage of questions regarding why it took so long to come out or the always helpful:stay in the closet and ride it out.
What we need is not only support for them but also ways to as bell hooks would say create strategies for survival and dare I say thriving.
Recently , I was invited to facilitate a group of gay men.
We began with one topic and it became very clear to me that the greater need and the most powerful focus could be "thriving amidst all the things that conspire to "take us out".
Nobody wanted to hear this and I was disappointed and dismissed for even suggesting this.
My disappointment came from the lack of importance that we place on how people come out and what skill set they mastered during their time of self imprisonment.
I pointed out (on three occasions) that as men in our 40's, 50's, and 60's , we had survived and figured out ways to support ourselves and offer self care in the process.
I wanted to hear from those of us who had very different experiences.
If a black guy in the 1970's came out with his white partner what did this mean to them ?
What were the consequences ?
If a white gay in the 1980's was diagnosed with this new "gay cancer" and watched his friends die and then had to nurse his partner until his death what did that create ?
Men that come out later in life have a knowledge base that is vastly different than those that got started early.
What must happen is not an either or response to when someone came out but a sharing of resources that in no way invalidates or gives one set of life decisions more value than another.
I often find it personally difficult when dealing with white partners who have had access to everything because of either their whiteness or their assimilation into straight culture.
As a person who was only allowed entry into this identity denying malaise (assimilation and self denial) between the ages of 14-19 then was given a not so subtle pink slip when I claimed my gay identity, my struggles with those who "wait" for the big reveal often upset me.
After talking with several folk who cam out later in life, it is clear that although on the surface it looks as if things were simpler and access was a plenty, it had a cost.
Everything has a cost.
Nobody gets to live life consequence free.
A better solution is to combine the best of all worlds.
My experience of having to fight to be who I am and left the fuck alone from age six onward can be combined with all of the financial know how and possibilities that come with the larger, mainstream culture.
Having to survive and offer a finger to the culture that wants me dead has provided me with the opportunity to determine what truly matters and how to consistently and unapologetically trust my mind and instincts.
Gay men are steeped in shame.
There is no gay man in this culture who has not been invited to indulge in a great amount of shame creation and subjugation. No matter our backgrounds, our subculture is one that invites shame.
America is both sex obsessed and sex phobic.
This makes for disturbing and horribly stupid thinking and behavior around sexuality and its expression.
Gay men raised in American culture are heavily influenced by the parents who raise them (who also are as confused, angry and uninformed as the children they rear).
As a gay man, I am keenly aware of the need and lust for acceptance by people who will never understand my "choices" (yes, I still have contact with people who subscribe to this bs)and will use the lack of understanding to create distances where there should be love.
These same people will use misunderstanding and a refusal to change as the reason to not accept me.
While I no longer permit the longing for acceptance by folks who look like me to worry or menace me, it still hurts.
It is hurtful to have people dismiss you and the person you love simply because they can.
According to the brilliant Brene' Brown shame needs the following three things to survive and thrive: secrets, silence and judgement.
We all know gay men are notoriously adept at these three deadly and provocative means of personal and communal annihilation.
I have often heard gay men talk very passionately about not wanting someone in their business (secrecy).
I am often looked at as if I've grown an extra head when I ask people : what business ? Are you up to something ?
I have had (gay ) friends school me in the art of deception (another level of secrecy) and ways of being "slick".
My gay male friends are unimpressed when I state:If what your doing is legit then what do you care if somebody knows about it ?
I get antsy when people around me keep secrets.
Secret keeping is something we learn and (if lucky ) master when we first discover that we are "different".
Some gay men have shared with me what a wonderful experience they had coming out and more pointedly how supportive and open their families were on the "big day".
My retort is always: Unless you never left your house, at some point there was a reason for you to "pass" (as a straight male) in an effort to keep a job, enter a social club or just to keep the peace in a social setting.
I am assured that these incidents were out of their hands and that they opted for the deadly and always productive choice of silence.
When we don't understand the significance of being silenced, we have lost a significant battle.
Silent and unseen equals a painless existence.
Silence is a way of sanctioning foolishness and straight up stupidity.
Being quiet doesn't invite or insist on change.
Gay men are wonderful at silencing each other as a means to release shame and its hold on us. We are often are worst advocates and biggest bullies.
Opening countless gay mags, I am made to believe that unless I have a glaring six pack, a huge monster cock, all the latest fashions and am anything other than 25, I better keep my lips zipped and quietly fade into the background.
We must speak our shame (as it pertains to aging, waning sex appeal and sexual interest, disappointment, flat out anger and resentment) and identify where we can assist each other in building up resistance to it.
We must not encourage or turn a blind eye to those of us who sexually act out as their one and only shame eliminating tool.
It is time we come out about our shame.
When Private Dancer hit the charts, I drove everybody around me nuts.
While my parents constantly threatened to throw the goddamn album out the window if I continued to play it, I ignored their loving and gentle warnings and purchased another copy.
What my parents and all the other haters didn't understand was that I was seeking freedom.
As a gay black kid trying to survive high school, Detroit in the 80's and AIDS as a ubiquitous reminder of what happens to boys who "like" boys, I felt trapped, invisible and targeted.
I longed for freedom,fame and fortune, and killer legs.
In my adolescent mind, owning Turner-like gams would allow me to (benevolently) rule the world.
All gay men need their icons.
All gay men need a bold, courageous bellwether who is unafraid to take up space, demand attention and create a world and reality of their own.
As a persecuted minority, we all look toward those that demonstrate what can be achieved with perseverance,dogged determination and a healthy dose of self confidence.
High school friends and family members teased me about this never ending obsession with the old lady who was the Rock Goddess ; I hummed every note on Private Dancer and entertained myself recreating every video move and dramatic interview.
While I couldn't rock a leather skirt or pants or heels or anything resembling leopard print, I lived for the denim jacket that reminded me that I could walk the tough streets of NYC and own them.
Having idols and those that light the way are important.
Twenty years later, there is still not much that can match my frenzied devotion and allegiance to the Honky Tonk Angel.
I have seen other singers attempt to blatantly and deliberately court myself and my gay brethren. At 47, I am the same age she was when she was at the height of her career and comeback.
My legs are good but not Tina good.
Nothing says I have made it despite incredible odds like a pair of mile long stems and an attitude to match.
Whether it is big or small screen,gay men are everywhere.
We are often served images that reinscribe stereotypes: the raving queen, the hard core -rough trade -nobody knows I'm gay, the "I will fuck anything" and have no moral center gay, and finally, the culture expert/innovator who entertains.
It is time we reclaimed our brilliance,creativity,power and yes "ovahness".
Reclaiming the aforementioned without asking for permission and an obsessive focus on white supremacy would also be a wonderful addition.
I know three things that if given up will make our lives suck less: a severe lack of attention paid to mental health; an over dependency on drugs and alcohol; and not handling our finances.
Some years ago, I wrote about cruising and the deeper implications it exhibits regarding issues of mental health, loneliness and shame.
Many people chose to share comments that labeled me prudish, judgmental and self righteous(despite my sharing that this world had seduced me on more than one occasion).
As with any group that has been shamed for who we are and what we do, it was easier to attack me and my suggestions than it was to have an honest look at what I'd drawn attention to (death, STD infection and incarceration and being labeled a sex addict which would prevent and inhibit employment and livelihood and the fear that keeps many of us from building a well thought out deeply intimate relationship with another man).
Delusion and denial are the roots of serious mental health issues.
These issues create individuals who will use and manipulate others to meet their own needs.
As I mentioned in my post, cruising was not fun or fulfilling. It always left me hungering for real connection. It fed the loneliness monster and provided entertainment.
People are not entertainment.
When our mental issues are ignored, we feel the need to dominate others by creating oversized personas and bitchiness masquerading as bravado designed to hide low self esteem, shame and feelings of "not enough".
Competing for scraps left by Supremacist culture, we are often nasty and biting to other gay men when it would be just as easy to offer support, understanding and solidarity.
If you are a sociopath with a large ego,insightful suggestions as to how you can make better and more productive life choices are perceived as threats. As a result, you must obliterate all attempts directing you to more favorable solutions.
I have known gay men who pitifully try to seduce straight men then terrorize everyone in their social circles when their ridiculous and pointless plans are thwarted.
Are we so filled with self hate that we must endure misery and angst to give ourselves something to do?
Making mental health as important as being fabulous and over-the-top would change an entire culture and have severe repercussions for the larger (straight) community.
Gay folks can then come to the table and demand change from a place of "enoughness".
Along with attacking things that attack us and claim our minds, we must let go of our fascination and dependency on drugs and alcohol.
Regardless of weed's (non harming properties) and alcohol's benign affects, the folks I know who partake are not indulging periodically.
A celebratory drink to honor an achievement is one thing. Needing a drink daily or a toke on the regular is something else.
I used to have an alcoholic friend whose witty retort about his daily cocktail was an insightful : I'm not an alcoholic; Alcoholics go to meetings.
While we all had a good chuckle at this brilliant and ascerbic comeback (which is what you do at 23), the constant and daily imbibing told a different story.
All of the folks I know who do drugs constantly make awful life choices: quitting jobs for no reasons with no plans or financial safety net, dating all the wrong people and a general lack luster existence replete with no goals or long term desires.
I know folks who defend their drug use and will argue with anyone that suggests they let it go.
There might be something to look at when you fight or attempt to legitimize your choices.
How do you feel about not doing it ?
What comes up when the thought of saying no is presented.
I take pride in saying no and feel great about it.
If gay men really want to thrive and share our brilliance with the world, it is imperative that we handle our coins.
I know of no other group that has the earning potential of gay men.
I also know no other group that makes such ridiculous, short term decisions.
If kids and all that comes with that is not a part of your future, does this give you the right to screw up piles of money?
Some years back, I wrote a post that highlighted gays men refusal to grow up and Capitalism's reliance on this refusal as a money making machine.
When you don't feel great about yourself, you are ripe for pimping and being used.
Gay male culture,regardless of what progressives and liberals tell us about working class and poor gays, has access to a plethora of resources.
I have been a poor gay.
It is not fun being broke all the time and at the mercy of (so -called)friends and their constantly shifting compassion levels.
Gay men who want to "own" their lives must get clear about their money, what it's doing and the power it wields.
I'm often amazed that gay men in their 50's are no further ahead than gay men in their 20's when it comes to financial planning and money management.
Social Security is on its way out regardless of what our elected officials tell us.
Gay brothers no one is coming to save us.
I recently created a financial power of attorney and a medical equivalent should my health deteriorate.
I have also started creating a living revocable trust along with a will and a way to protect my home despite which one of us goes first.
Many people think death preparation sounds morbid.
Most folks think that if they don't discuss death it will kindly skip over them.
While that might work in fairy tales and t.v.shows, in real life we are all gonna check out at some point.
No One's Coming !
We have to figure this shit out and become responsible for living well and protecting those we love.
Have the uncomfortable conversations.
Make this the year you handle the present and the future.
Take full control of your life by also taking full control of your mental health, dependency on substances and finances.
There are people depending on you.