I don’t ask for much; just to be better than I was before, and by before, I mean anytime before right now. More so than doing, I believe I’m BEING that person. My daily morning meditation practice has increased my capacity for stillness and it is teaching me how to anchor myself in the present, shielding me from the raucous ruminations of before that seek to hold me hostage from my higher self. I’m not deep, y’all, but surely I’m not shallow. I’m going into 2019 with no intent to necessarily change anything, but to be present in each moment for they themselves are always ministering to me.
There’s an African Proverb that says: “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”
My translation is this: You can’t be a warrior of light while actively choosing to remain scared of your own shadow.
For each of us, our stories—the ones we are born into and the ones we manufacture in order to cope, albeit, in unhealthy ways—cast a certain amount of darkness. On the spectrum of pain, they register as moderate to severe with the potential to leaving us writhing in pain, paralyzed with the quiet inertia of our fears. As a child, while lying in bed after watching a movie that did violence to my imagination, a jacket hanging on the door or a figurine on my dresser reflecting just the right amount of moonlight through the window’s blinds and curtains turned the benign into the malignant, creating ghoulish shadows that gave me nightmares. However, my nighlight was my secret weapon as it turned the night into day. Though soft in brightness, its lumens illuminated the room, but more importantly, it enlightened me internally and taught me how to distinguish between light and illusion.
None of us have to succumb to neither the dull or throbbing pain of our past or our present.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- The same tired-ass bathroom selfie while toothpaste spit bubbles are conspicuously chilling on the mirror. In fact, just stop taking pictures in the bathroom altogether. #windex
- Subliminal clapback posts, but according to you aren’t really clapbacks because you’re just “talking out loud” like Kevin Spacey. If you’re mad at the world and just wanna talk out loud, you might consider a journal. Yeah, they still make those, bruh. Otherwise, expect it to either go down in the comments section or the DM. Whichever one doesn’t get blocked first. Your choice. Smile.
- Duck lips. Look, those should have been stowed away in, like, what? 2015? But there are still a few stragglers. So, as they say or used to say in the Army when I served but really wanted to so desperately be a civilian again, “Police up your battle buddies.” If you see something, say something. Thank you.
- The Dab. In middle school, during arts and crafts class, my teacher would have me and my class use Elmer’s Glue to secure construction paper or paper maché together to complete whatever the hell project we were doing at the time. And if we were caught applying copious amounts of white adhesive, she would admonish us, saying, “A little dab will do you.” Here, in 2019, though, a little dab won’t do you because, no, we don’t know how to not over-do things. Because when older white people start doing the dab, it’s time to shut it down. We cannot have nice things so shut it down. But not like the government.
- Preaching, prophecying, or being a pest to me or anyone in the DM. Just so we are clear like white people with little to no melanin (no offense), I already have a personal relationship with God and it is personal hence why I’m using the word personal three times in this sentence. I don’t wanna type Amen if I love Jesus and I’m not going to. I’m also not going to forward some random message to “keep it going”. Why would I want to keep spam going? Nah. Nope. Nah uh. Block.
- Calling me on Facebook Messenger when you know good and well you have my phone number. What would you do if Facebook went away overnight? What would happen to our relationship? Hell, do we even have one anymore? I’m bout to BirdBox you and you don’t even know it.
- Tagging me when you don’t know me like that and even then, if you do know me like that, let the algorithm do its job.
- Liking all of my posts as soon as I accept your friend request, LIKE A STALKER. I don’t even like all of my posts, non-fam. Pace yourself. Run the marathon not the sprint.
- Commenting on an article before actually reading the article. I mean . . . 😫
- Finally, begging for attention, directly or indirectly. In all seriousness, social media should not be anyone’s vehicle for love, acceptance, self-worth, self-esteem, etc. Likes amd followers in and of themselves don’t mean anything. Don’t fall victim to the addictive nature of modern technology. But just take my word for it, read Dr. Adam Alter’s latest book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. I’m coming off a 14-day social media detox, and everytime I complete one, it does wonders to my psyche and my spirit.
Wait. Before I go, 2019 just invaded my DM and told to tell you, “Don’t bring that sh*t in here”.
Now, you can type Amen if you love this message. Happy New Year!
The writer in me loves words. As such, I enjoy the employ of dialect, colloquial expression, figurative language, literary technique, and vernacular, just to name a few. I especially appreciate the cultural artifacts sewn into the lining of language. So when black women (some not all) punctuate their sentences with ‘DO 👏🏾YOU 👏🏾HEAR 👏🏾ME👏🏾?’ (Monosyllabicly-synchronized handclaps may or may not be sold separately) as they lean in and speak their truth and want to ensure that your state of our awareness is, at a minimum, woke-adjacent because something is about to happen, I pay attention.
To the unlettered, allow me to clue you in on something: ‘DO YOU HEAR ME?’ is really a rhetorical question because they know good and damn well that you hear them as you have two ears and you were just listening to mumble rap in your AirPods. They are simply giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Specifically, ‘DO YOU HEAR ME?’ is a warning; a courteous heads-up, if you will; a real-life read receipt; a not-so-subtle review before a pop quiz of ass whuppings; a yellow triangle conspicuously placed before a puddle of your future tears.
I’ve heard enough Do You Hear Me’s in my life that, even now as I write this, I shudder at phonetic memories of the enunciation of those ominous words.
So, yes, I hear you black woman. And you still have my undivided attention.
“Plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”. - Unknown
The statement above is about selfless sacrifice; service to others. I was raised in a family of service providers. My parents served in the military. My mom for less than 10 years. My dad, 22 years and some change. Since then, they’ve also served as laypersons and members of the clergy in various churches around the US and even overseas. That said, service is in my DNA. Hell, it’s in all of ours, but, surely, it’s in mine. I’ve seen the highs and lows of service, too. The early mornings and late nights. The scorching summers and the Alpine winters. The missed birthdays and holidays. The culture shock from living comfortably in America to an interrupted, involuntary existence overseas. Not to mention, the pomp and the parades when everything was going right as well as the crushing, lonely losses that are enough for one to question their faith. Still, service is not about the person as much as it is about the people. A phrase that I like to say, one that I gleaned from a local personal development circle of mine, is “It’s not about you.” And though that statement might be a painful pill to swallow given how counterculture it is, it can be done. In fact, to calm my gag reflexes, in my kitchen on a white dry-erase board are three simple questions written in black marker: Who can I serve? What can I give? Who can I celebrate? I am humbled every time I read them, too, though I don’t always answer them. I guess it’s partly because I don’t always have the answers in the moment and, at other times, if I’m being honest, I allow my selfish ego to override my heart. However, truly, those three questions keep me grounded in my humanity and in yours. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve”.
I thank you for your compassionate comprehension of our humanity, so much that you don’t condemn us, but console us with concern and caution rooted in unconditional love.
As you are fully aware, in America and even abroad, we live in a climate of deep-seated intolerance and a seemingly unrivaled disregard for human life. A life that you inspired out of nothing so that we all would be, not just something, but someone purposed by your design.
Scripture says that vengeance is yours, but, to speak freely, I sometimes question the timing of your judgment and your system of justice as a whole because Black people are still experiencing vestigial suffering precipitated by hundreds of years of slavery in addition to the slave codes and Jim Crow laws that proceeded them.
Contrary to the gospel song, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”, rooted in Black Church culture and sung at various times in Black churches, WE ARE TIRED. We’re hurting—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and financially.
Scripture also says that you don’t put more on us than we can bear, but we’re not superheroes and this isn’t Wakanda. So, I have to ask you: When will we receive a reprieve? When will the pain be eliminated at the root and not just numbed on the surface so that we can sleep through the night? When will we be extended the benefit of the doubt? When will we be compensated for our losses and reconciled with the financial capital that our ancestors created through the toil of sweat-saturated soil in the killing fields of Antebellum America and now through slavery by another name and that name being the prison industrial complex? When will we be fully enfranchised as American citizens not just on paper, but on community sidewalks, playgrounds, and professional sports fields, at our places of employment whether we are being paid pennies or millions of dollars, at community pools, in city streets, shopping centers, neighborhood parks, rental properties, and more recently, in the privacy of our own homes? When, God? When will justice be served for Black people?
I ask that you brood over us, especially those who are passionately committed to their cognitive dissonance and remind us all expeditiously that we are one and the same. That we are created in your image which reflects only light and love. That if we kill another we have, in essence, killed an aspect of ourselves because we are intrinsically connected and the universe that you created adjudicates karmic consequences with no respect of personality or person effective in this lifetime and the next.
Thank you in advance.
A Rebel With A Pen
By now, it is clear that we all can hear the deafening sirens of rape culture blaring through our neighborhoods, communities, sidewalks, and city streets, spilling over into our local schools, college campuses, corporations, and even churches. Yet, sadly, women, who are statistically more apt than men to be sexually assaulted, are dismissed as if they “asked for it” like some bizarre, rape-fantasy coin-operated provocateur or ignored altogether as if their emotionally and physically traumatic stories are annoying late night informercials appealing to our emotions and pockets, but offering nothing of consequence.
What does it say about a society that is more reactive than proactive? What kind of future are we leaving for our progeny if we are only willing to stand up for the rights of women when all other preemptive options are exhausted, and when we are then forced to reluctantly save face or continue to lose millions of dollars of revenue?
Is that our only recourse? Do we not have any more respect for women than that?
A few days after Aretha Franklin’s highly publicized funeral, I’m still reeling from what, based on Ariana Grande’s body language and awkward laugh, had to be one the most unnerving experiences for her as she stood in front of a mega church while being held, what I like to characterize as, captive. All because a man felt the need to clutch her body close to his body and then proceed to crack a joke that really no one should ever say especially in light of the flames turned wildfires of xenophobia being fanned by intolerant bigots and fear mongers.
Men, we can do better than this. We have to do better then this. I’ve told my fiancé, a beautiful Latina and Black woman, before and often remind her, not because she doesn’t know this already, but more so because I want her to know exactly how I feel about her, that she is a sovereign human being who has full power of her being, her body, her mind, her spirit, her beauty, her sexuality, her voice, her everything. Just because we’re in a relationship, it doesn’t mean I own her. Nope. All it means is that we’ve verbalized agreements to one another, agreements that are, in essence, renewed daily barring any termination of said agreements whether directly or indirectly.
I am a man and a feminist in the sense that I believe that all women should be treated equally and equitably as men.
If life is a proving ground, pain is the drill instructor. On the road to happiness pain is riding shotgun. No matter how in-love you are with yourself, no matter how in-love you are with your partner, your kids, your career, no matter how many religious services you attend, no matter how many self-help books you read, no matter how enlightened you may think you are or actually are, no matter how nice of a person you are, pain is a part of life’s onboarding process. In fact, you might as well right this down in bold print: “I WILL EXPERIENCE PAIN.” Why? I don’t know. To me, it’s as if it’s life’s way of tempering us, so that we can last, so that we can endure to the end of our respective journeys. Because having all of the positive thoughts in the world is sometimes not enough to be able to negotiate the variety of obstacle courses we will face in life. However, if we are aware that pain is part and parcel of life, we won’t forfeit the marathon at the early onset of what some of us deem to be adversity or the “enemy” attempting to attack us when, really, it’s just normal cramping and joint pain.
I am convinced that our faulty expectations and our extreme of sense of entitlement to only goodness is what oftentimes derails us more than anything else, leaving us reeling for something, anything that will anchor us regardless of whether or not it’s beneficial or detrimental to us. We say things like “That could never happen to me” or sanctimonious statements like “Won’t He do it?”, but the reality is that things are not always going to play out according to how we want them to and God is not a genie in a bottle.
We are better served to shift our perspective on the unfolding of events that play out in our life. I am reminded of the story of Job in the Bible in which Job faced unconscionable pain, the kind that many of us today would likely choose to forfeit our lives over, but Job remained loyal to God.
Job 2:9-10 – “Then his (Job) wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all of this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Job 42:2, 5-6 – “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Choose to go through the pain. On the other side of it is, is what I like to believe what scripture characterizes as “the peace that passes all understanding.”
Reflecting on the epic fact that I proposed to my girlfriend of 3.5 years this past weekend I and the personal development I've undergone over the years, I realize this:
There are far too many men walking around with a boy's armor on and, believe it or not, some of them are wearing a woman's armor, too. By that, I'm not at all referring to homosexuality, but emotional intelligence. There are far too many men that react to life's problems as a woman might (this is not an affront to women, but a highlight of the disparate differences between the biology of men and women) and society doesn't need any more of that kind of behavior. I believe that one of the reasons why society is so confused and frustrated is because far too many men have been derelict in their divine duty to cast aside their B.S. and lead from the front. I also believe that any woman who knows who she is wants a man to show up as a man at all times and to lead her, not dominate her in the bedroom and outside of it. Not be her father. Not be her master. And not project his insecurities onto her and make her out to be the problem when, in fact, it's really him, either. Look, fellas, I know it's not easy being a man, especially a Black man in America (Trust, me, I'm a Black man, too), but the rewards are rich, not to be confused with rich-es per se.
I didn't have any voting power in God's choice to purpose me by design to be a man, but I do have a choice in my response to his creation, and I boldly accept the gift he has given me and will be an excellent steward of it because God never does anything without a purpose. That said, there are just some things a man must do. Nothing about life is easy, but I do think that when we realize that the process—you know, the one referenced in the popular reminder/cliche, "Trust the Process"—is nothing more than following simple, proven steps over and over again until we manifest our dreams, we will slouch our shoulders a little more and rest a lot easier because life doesn't have to be as hard as we can make it out to be.
In the Christian context, Paul the Apostle, in the Book of Ephesians 6:10-11, admonishes us to be strong and to put on God's full armor before we go into battle. Life is a battlefield, yo. God never sends soldiers to battle without the proper equipment, though. Never. He always provides. It's WE who sabotage OUR success on the battlefield. It's our ego. It's our desire to want to impress people instead of honoring God. It's our need to have it all figured out all the time, but having it figured out all the time is one very stressful existence, because it's not attainable or sustainable, and nothing that I cannot sustain is worth living for.
Everything you need to change your life is already within you and transformation can start at any moment of your choosing. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
The choice is always yours.
I was watching a documentary the other day about something that I can’t recall, but what I do remember is the brief discussion and illustration of the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The narrator explained that the caterpillar’s metamorphosis from a creature whose only mode of transportation is via its legs to a beautiful winged creature with the ability to fly is no easy feat. In fact, not all caterpillars survive the process. Damn. You mean to tell me that I decided to “Trust the Process” but it didn’t work? Mannnnn, I can’t speak to that. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
Just watching it unfold before my eyes was daunting enough for me to say no to the process if I were in its shoes. However, the rewards definitely seemed to outweigh the risk. Wait. So I can be a butterfly? Hell yeah, my dude. I’d probably shed my low-level caterpillar life, too.
Speaking of shedding, in order to become a butterfly, the caterpillar must essentially eat and digest itself while holed up in its new place of residence, a cocoon, specifically built for the purpose of transformation. Hol’ up? Eat myself? That’s not what I signed up for, bruh. What kind of sadistic sh*t is
During all of this, I couldn’t help but to see myself and us in the life of a caterpillar. In order for us to transform or metamorphose into the person that we were put on this Earth to be, there are aspects of ourselves that we must eat, digest, and grow into something new. There are many things about our past and even our present that simply no longer serve us and will not usher us into the state of being that we need to inhabit to share our gift(s) with the world. Another thing that I realized or was confirmed actually is that everything we need to become who we were purposed by design to be is already within us. The butterfly was already in the caterpillar from birth.
Who do you want to be? The caterpillar or the butterfly?