Pain

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.”

The Butterfly Effect

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?

butterfly.jpg

Canned Convo is Like Canned Food. It’s Crap.

After being duped by yet another canned response on IG, I realized something:

Canned conversation is like canned food. It’s crap.

Now before you blow up my comments section, allow me to defend myself. 🔫😂 I’m not referring to emails sent to subscribers on an email list. A subscriber shouldn’t complain about receiving emails that they subscribed to whether knowingly or unknowingly because that’s just, well, again, shitty.

I’m talmbout transmitting templated-based messages to people that have neither coherence or correlation instead of taking the time to really get to know your audience. And, yeah, I know, you can’t have a one-on-one conversation with everyone in the world. Neither, you, me, or Sweet Brown have time for that. But what we can do is take the time to communicate an organic comment at least once a day that’s not created, cultivated, curated by artificial intelligence.

Most of us are connected to the Internet in one form or another, but at the same time, many of us are also disconnected from humanity. Why is that?

A few weeks ago, in response to the unfortunate and unexpected deaths of two particular celebrity figures, “Have you checked on your strong friend?” responses went seemingly viral. Overnight, everyone became über concerned about their fellow man/woman. Today, weeks later, I have to wonder if that concern still has a pulse.

Let’s all face it. Mass communication via social media isn’t going anywhere. Ever. So buckle your seat belts and scroll safely. Social media is a highly innovative and effective tool. It has an ability to enhance communication, but at the same time it has the ability to highlight the flaws in our communication and people skills, and that’s what is most alarming to me.

The exposure to self-aggrandizement, selfishness, sex, scarcity, fear-based ad hominem attacks, exploitation, and just downright evil in some cases gives me pause and I wonder, were we always like this? 🤔

Mental Health Matters

I’m not going to presume to know the details of Kate Spade’s departure from the physical plane because I don’t, but I will say this: We all can do better job of getting involved in the lives of the people around us.

We live in a content-driven world that, if we allow it, will program us to know a little about a lot, pivoting from one superficial issue to the next discarding it as soon as we are fed something else. Yet oftentimes we remain derelict in our duty to love the people that are only within a few degrees of separation from us.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you called someone instead of texting them? When is the last time you put your phone down and engaged in face-to-face conversation? When is the last time you asked someone “How are you doing?” and actually meant it because you paused and waited for their response? You don’t have to respond in the comments sections, but do answer in your own heart.

Many say that “life is tough” and I agree that it is, but I’ll damned if I don’t reach out to someone that is displaying the markers of life-threatening behavior.

We are very self-absorbed and in denial, living in a “Look at me and what I’m doing right now”, “I got enough problems of my own to worry about yours” world, constantly competing and comparing to the extent that we are indifferent to the people to our left and to our right.

Adolescents are massacring other adolescents and adults at schools and urban cities across the country and adults, whether they are educated on dealing with life’s challenges or not, are checking out with finality.

Why is that?

We’re contending with a mental health crisis and we all need to stop what we’re doing and talk about it. Stop telling people to “Be Strong”. Hell, stop telling people to “Be” anything. Besides, strong is not an emotion, it’s a state of mind that has to be developed and it doesn’t happen overnight. By definition, our emotions are fluid. They are “in motion”. That said, we all should allow ourselves to experience, express, and release the plurality of emotions on the emotional spectrum. Because if we don’t, those emotions will remain suppressed, slowly ticking away like a time bomb awaiting its imminent and often detrimental detonation.

To those who read this with contempt, this is not an indictment because no one is perfect, but an inquiry:

Who can I help? 

Who can I listen to? 

Who can I celebrate?

The Presumption of Guilt

Last night, a young white Prince William County, VA police officer pulled me over as I pulled out of the parking lot of my local gym and cited me for failing to stop a red light. Mind you, I did no such thing, and my lady was with me as a witness to corroborate my account. Of course, though, when I attempted to assert the truth of the matter, much to his chagrin, he scoffed and said that if I wanted to dispute the citation I could show up in court.

In the past, when pulled over and cited for a violation, I’ve taken the ticket or warning in stride well aware that I was in the wrong, but last night, something rose up in me and said, “F*ck that!” I wasn’t going to admit to something that I didn’t do. Maybe my reaction was predicated on my memories of the countless instances of injustice in America or maybe I felt bullied by roving police men and women who have nothing better to do than harass taxpaying, stand-up citizens who do the right thing. Regardless of which applies, I’ve had my fill.

One of the questions the officer asked me as he visually inspected my car for what I presume to be drugs, guns, and white women was “Is this your car?” Not a “How’s it going?” or “Hey, folks”, but a presumption of guilt. Last night marks the second time I’ve been questioned by a cop in the state of Virginia at a traffic stop about car ownership, and I don’t know if it’s procedural questioning or simply racial profiling, but, at this point, my trust in law enforcement is nil. Can’t a thirty-six-year-old black man own and drive an Infiniti G37x?

Based on my experience and those of countless others in the news, I’m having a very difficult time accepting that the majority of white law enforcement officers are on duty to “protect and serve”, at least not people of color, because if they were, they would learn to better listen to and communicate with the entirety of people in the communities under their watch, not just people who look like them.

I’ve served this country with honor for a little over a decade and don’t expect anything extraordinary in return, but at the least, I expect encounters with police to not result in a tug of war between their word and mine. I know what I did and I also know what I did not.

I’m thinking NWA was right after all.

I'd Rather Be Real Than Right

"The goal of an authentic discussion is to explore the subject, not to be right." - Matthew Kelly

I really like this quote. It’s one that I refer back to when I need to ground myself in the truth that I do not have all of the answers and neither does anyone else.

There are times when we are, in fact, right but asserting our “rightness” or righteousness at the moment does more harm than good to those in our company and in our earshot.

Wanting to be right stymies our learning. It closes all entry points of our heart and mind because, after all, we have everything figured out, right?  

But isn’t “right” simply a self-created value or a perspective maybe not in all cases, but most? History is said to be right, but only the ones that live to write it create it. So how is that an accurate account or the only account worth knowing if only one perspective was recorded?

Let’s look at it this way. If two people are sitting at a table at opposite ends of each other looking at an object and are asked to describe what they see, one would say one thing and the other would say another. Does it make either of them right or wrong? Or is it that they are simply sharing their perspective or vantage point of the reality in from of them? 

The vociferous tug of war between right and wrong is nothing new, but it seems to be growing at a feverish pitch, and I don’t know if it’s because of the media’s constant coverage of it or if it’s actually true. 

Motivation influencer Seth Godin said,

“The media isn’t the one that needs a narrative… we do. We need to make sense of what’s around us, not just the true things that really happened, but the fictional ones that we know didn’t. All this myth making reminds us just how strongly wired we are to believe in things that both make sense and feel right. They feel right because of who told us, and when. Culture creates reality.”

The onus is on us to unlearn bullsh*t and individually create and live out our own reality. I’m sorry (no, I’m not), but everything can’t and shouldn’t be done for the culture. I mean, that’s not how I live my life anyway because in the end, I don’t want to be right as much as I want to be real. 

Stay humble

Every now and again I have to remind myself of my roots. When paying my bills on time becomes habit, when securing the bag with chinos from Banana Republic (40% off) feels organic, and when unflinchingly splurging on discipline pants from Lulu Lemon (with a 15% military discount of course) is rewarding, I have to remind myself how far I’ve come because it wasn’t always like this

Which is why I never get too boujee (sp) for Ramen. I remember the days when this enriched-wheat-flour-based, stomach-saving packet of noodles with enough sodium to make a salt shaker jealous was “how I got over”

“Back in my day” these were clutch. I mean, who of you didn’t eat these? Come out from among us so we can publicly denounce you as a bold-face liar and banish you to the aisles of Giants (yes, with an S) to obtain, not the, but, THEE relic of struggles past that will quench your hunger and thirst for ratchetness

Whether you ate them as-is or doctored them with hot sauce, hot dogs, or whatever else that suited your pantry-based fancy, you slurped these noodles like they were the second coming of soup

So the next time you walk down a grocery aisle and you happen to see these lying on the shelf, whether in singles or economy size, lean over to them and in a still, small voice simply whisper, “Thank you!” 😂😫🙌🏾

Knowing Is Half The Battle

Was I blind to the situation or did I have my eyes closed? The two are mutually exclusive.

Sometimes we are literally operating in a blind spot, an unknown unknown, if you will, oblivious to what’s happening around us and what’s at stake. I believe that’s where the benefit of doubt and mercy comes into play.

On the contrary, there are times when we consciously choose to walk around with our eyes wide shut ignoring the highlights and guideposts all around us, but get upset at others (never ourselves) when things go wrong and the pages of our lives are written without us in mind.

Is it because we want plausible deniability when things go awry? Do we feel more comfortable believing, although erroneously, that we can make mistakes and won’t be held responsible for the effects of our causes?

The saying “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” is egregiously false. What you don’t know CAN hurt you. Not knowing can cost you valuable time, resources, relationships, and even your life in a worst case scenario.

When I was a child, I watched “G.I. Joe” religiously and at the end of every episode one of the characters would deliver some sort of public service announcement which was always concluded with: “Now you know and knowing is half the battle.”

I believe that statement applies to all of us. When we know better and apply it, the journey is not as challenging; we typically negotiate obstacles better. The learning curve is slightly bent in our favor.

During times of counsel my Dad used to say (I’m paraphrasing): “Trial and error is not always the best teacher. It’s best to listen to wisdom the first time and save yourself the headache and maybe even heartache.”

With wisdom in tow, I’m learning to make the right choice the first time around and that is to journey with my eyes open.