Self-Reflect or Suffocate

People used to have to tell me that I acted inappropriately or ugly when I used to blow up and go off on people. Many times with reason, but wrong nonetheless. Even though I still cut up, not as often of course, I immediately know that I lost control. The ability to self-reflect has come with age, experience, and accepting that one of my flaws is my temper.

Much of my anger came from many of the issues I dealt with growing up and feeling so out of control. Once I got professional help to process those issues, I was able to grow as a person and learn how to control my emotions. I would react negatively in a situation and immediately reflect on how I could have handled the situation better.

This process has made me understand my triggers and be honest with myself about myself. Many of us live in a state of denial of who we are and how our habits, attitudes, and outlook control our progress. We want to lose weight, but refuse to admit that we eat too much. We want to be prosperous even though we brunch too much and save less. We want to be in healthy relationships, but haven’t dealt with pass issues that are barriers to being a whole person.  I have or am guilty of many of these things myself.

You have to see the worst in you just as much as you see the best in you. Your ability to self-reflect accelerates your progress. Everything is a learning process, but you shouldn’t have to learn the same lessons over and over. Life is so much like school. You learn the lesson, you take a test, you pass or fail.  If you pass, you move on to the next level.  If you fail, you go through the lesson again until you get it.

Self-reflect.  Be introspective.  Look at yourself in the mirror.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Learning How to Love

I thought I knew what love was.  I do not even know what I thought, but I thought I knew something at every point of my life when I proclaimed to love someone.  As the years go by and I evolve each day, I realize that I know nothing about love and I have so much yet to learn.  Learning what love is and how to love is key to maintaining long-lasting relationships that surpass distance and time.

I have friends that I have known for years who are all very different, yet our relationships have withstood distance and time because we love each other.  Many of them were my first friends in college and we never let go of each others hands as we walked along our separate journeys.  Because we have been friends for so long, we eventually learned AND accepted how each person wanted or needed to be loved.

Some people need to be told that they are loved often, some people need that intimate connection, while others know the genuineness of your bond, and the only thing that matters is that you are present when needed.  Although we enter into intimate relationships with this knowledge, we make the road difficult by expecting love to be present and automatic.  Love is not a feeling, but the bond that is built between two people.

Looking back on my long-term friendships, I see that we did not love each other in the beginning like we love each other now.  We learned how each person wanted to be loved and learned to respect that persons love language over time.  As a wife I am learning that how I loved my husband year 1 may not be how my husband needs to be loved in year 4.  The most important thing is to allow your love to be fluid and encompass your partners current needs, instead of simply loving the same way because that is all you know.

Change is uncomfortable, but it is necessary for growth.  I am learning so much and accepting that I have so much to learn.  I won’t be the same person tomorrow as I was yesterday, because I am progressing in every area of my life, including learning how to love.

Love is our superpower.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Redefining My Relationship With Religion

I have been very vocal about my disappointment and craggy relationship with religion and the concept of church over the past few years.  My generation is one of the first to take organized religion and church off of a pedestal and examine the structure and concept against what it has always stood for.    Many of us are struggling to reconcile the idealism that we grew up believing and the realization discovered from the critical analysis of an institution that has done so much damage to so many people.  This struggle has caused many within my generation to detach from religion, church, or any type of organized thinking that may be oppressive or controlling.  This generation refuses to simply accept the church for all of its good without discussing all of the bad.

Although I felt like I had found my dream church, I decided that I was not ready to be apart of that congregation because I needed to redefine my relationship with religion, or I would eventually be let down again.  So I stopped attending church and started working on my relationship with God.  I have always had a strong relationship with God and I learned to pray very early on in life.  I pray often, I pray hard, and I pray for myself, my family and many others.  I have read the Bible from front to back and have a good handle of the well used verses that preachers use to engage his/her parishioners with on a Sunday morning.  Despite all of this, I could not understand why I struggled with the things that were being yelled from the pulpit and the things that God was laying on my heart.  This is where my relationship needed more definition.

I have discussed this struggle with a few friends and received many different reactions and commentary.  I have a few friends who are just like me and would rather stay away because church is “not what it used to be.”  I have a few friends who are still into church and are able to separate those expectations from their relationship with that church.  Then there are the friends who go for the good and leave the bad right where it needs to be, with the person who brought that mess in.  I tried to decide if I was okay with being away from church forever and raising my son as a spiritualist or become more like one of the last two examples of friends I discussed.  This is what I have been contemplating gently over the past few months and strongly over the past few weeks.

I do not know how to become apart of something, yet be detached enough to not allow any mess within the church to bother me.  I do not know how to appreciate the good things of a church and leave the bad with the person that brought it to the table.  But my lesson was God saying that He wanted me to be myself and myself only.  If my desire is to be emotionally involved with a church, then that should be how I engage and involve myself in that ministry. But before he allowed my heart to desire being in fellowship in that environment, I had more redefinition of my relationship with religion and my relationship to go.

Growing up in a very religious household with my grandparents, my life revolved around church.  Everything we did and everywhere we went centered around what was going on at church.  All of my close friends were in church and we did everything together.  Church was our life.  Religion filled our ears and heads with rules to abide by and consequences that would follow if any of these rules were broken. Most of the consequences ended in going to hell, simply put.  So we did not pierce our ears, celebrate pagan holidays, wear pants to church, not wear stockings when wearing a dress, cut our hair, sit on the front row with our legs uncovered or any of the other rules that dominated our sect of Pentecostalism.  Now that I am free from the bondage of expectation, I realize that these words were a way to create normalcy but the issue was the attitude that came against anyone who violated these rules.

I look back at how my grandfather operated and I do not feel as if he was preaching condemnation but simply setting a standard.  Although I was young, I would listen to the sermons and try to comprehend what was being said.  I helped him with his sermons after he lost his sight and even heard one recently and yearned for his wisdom.  But many of the things that went on in that church while my grandfather pastored that church and even after he got sick and later passed, I learned of as an adult and that is what broke my spirit.  I was so angry that my eyes began to see many of the other terrible things that were going on in churches around the country.

I began to ask questions about other preachers in the pulpit like, “How can a man preach in the pulpit when he cheated on his wife?” or “How can a woman be condemned for having a baby out-of-wedlock but not a man?” or “What is so wrong about wearing earrings when people spend hundreds on gaudy suits and hats” or “How in the world is everyone going to hell if we all sin and fall short of the glory, yet only certain sinners are definitely going to hell?”  These questions plus so many more had me torn because I saw the church and the leaders within the church as ones who lived by the word of God.  I saw the church as a safe place and not one in which people were raped or molested.  I saw the church as a place that built people up, not tore them down for every mistake that they may have made.  I saw the church as a Supreme Being and not one created by man.  That is where I was getting it wrong. 

God revealed to me that the Church is just a body of believers who are trying to hear my voice and follow my word.  The Church is a place to worship and lay your burdens at the altar but also a place to learn from your mistakes.  The Church is a place where you replenish your soul through the word, fellowship, and service.  The Church is greater than anything one man could destroy alone by his acts, words, or sin.  Within these revelations I began to see for myself that I allowed others to make me believe that the church was equal to God.  That I wrongly believed that the Church was the only way to get to God even though I knew I knew him for myself and had a strong relationship with God outside of church.

I know that if something is for you, it is for you and you alone, but if you are not prepared to receive it or use it for the right purposes, that individualized blessing will pass you and be given to someone else.  Missed opportunities.  And NOW for me going to church is simply an opportunity to affirm what God has already spoken to me.  It is not the only opportunity, but one that is organized and built around this convoluted concept of religion.  The purity of my relationship does not depend on the purity of the leadership of a church.  But when I feel that I am not being fed, God’s word is not being affirmed, or I am too distracted by the darkness of a church leadership then that is not the place for me to worship.

Church is simply an opportunity.  If you do not seize the opportunity to fellowship, it does not mean that you do not know God, that you are any less of a Christian (insert any religion), or that you are missing out on what God has for you.  What is for you, is for you and God will get it to you through a pastor, a friend, an article, a song or by any means necessary.  That is how He works.  I have chosen to not be apart of any structure that does not build me up or support my current relationship with God.  I have chosen to take opportunities to affirm what God has already placed on my mind and heart.  I have chosen to be myself and when I can no longer be myself in that ministry, to search for another place of worship.

I know that God has a calling on my life.  I do not think it is to stand in a pulpit and preach a word but I know that it is to spread His word.  I understand that no matter how far I run from religion or church that I cannot run from God.  I believe that this generation will get back to the relationship and stray from the religion.  I want my son to experience the love and support of a church community that I have received over the years.  I promise to protect him from the evil within and to answer the questions that stir up some sort of doubt in his mind about what has been said to him from a religious leader or teacher.  I vow to approach this church thing differently so that no man can disappoint me and push me away from something I love.  I love to fellowship.  I love to worship.  I love to praise.  I am a church lady (as my friend often reminds me) and I can be that person without being caught up in who is delivering the word and more invested in what is being delivered through the word.

I am going to continue redefining my relationship with religion until I settle in a place where I am on a solid rock.  This is literally the beginning of a series of posts about my own struggles with my faith and reconciliation with what I have been taught and what I have learned or believe is truth.  I know many people won’t understand this post or agree and I can accept that, but for those who know that there has to be a change in the way we connect with those in this generation that seek God then I welcome your comments and opinions.

I will never stop walking this walk.  Who helps guide my walk may change but where I am going will not.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

The Pieces of Me

As open as I am, I am equally cautious to exposing too much too soon.  This blog is my muse.  A place for me to express my inner most thoughts and to get somethings on paper that I have been holding in.  I come here to educate and to memorialize my feelings at particular moments.  I go back and read some of my own passages as if I wasn’t the person who wrote those words.  Once I release something onto paper, I usually forget about it and move on.  I have 14 drafts of posts that I have not completed or have chosen not to share.  I am telling my story, the best way I know how, but I know that the world will never know my full story because I am only comfortable with sharing certain pieces of it.

A friend posted a question about successful people on Facebook.  He asked if successful people were honest and transparent or calculating and cloaked.  I responded by saying that successful people are calculated and cloaked because being honest and transparent can leave you vulnerable for an attack.  This is something that I have learned in life and I did not understand as a young professional. I started my first real job out of college prior to graduation.  I was young, optimistic, and extremely outspoken.  I hid very little and commented on way too much.  I  build relationships easily through conversation, but towards the end of my 3rd year, those relationships started to bite me in the behind.

People judged me off of the relationships I had with many of the people on my unit.  The doctors felt comfortable enough to talk to me in a way that extended beyond professional etiquette.  My plans to progress were stunted because they didn’t want my voice in a place of influential power.  I reminded them of so many people who had come before me and they openly told me so. I could not understand why people would not want me to progress.  I came to work everyday, I stayed over, I worked anyones off-shift, I picked up extra hours often and actively loved what I did.  I realized many years later that I shared too many pieces of me and for that, I was punished.

I want to come onto my blog and share so much, because I know that it will help someone who is where I am or is where I was.  But I desire to be successful, so I have to always be truthful and extremely real but in my sharing, I must be calculated and cloaked on my content.  I have received some backlash for a post that I wrote, but I knew that post would elicit such a reaction and I did not care.  My strategy is not one of dishonesty but of planned progress.  This blog will go as far as I allow it to go, but I will not let anything that is shared here be the tool used for my demise.

Be two steps ahead and know your opponents well.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

My Transformation: Self-Love

When you hear Jill Scott’s song When I Wake Up, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7XyBz1FFQg, it does something to your soul.  This song speaks to apart of my transformation that deals with self-love and believing in me despite others opinion of me and my life.  I dealt with a series of insignificant relationships for a number of years with a false belief that they would eventually go somewhere notwithstanding the obvious signs of staleness that lead to a dead-end time and again.  I thought that my light would eventually shine bright enough and they would see me and appreciate all of me.

After experiencing a few heartbreaking realizations back-to-back I started to Wake Up.  I started to question my own state of mind instead of making excuses for theirs.  I started to appreciate my light and power instead of forcing others to see it.  I started to look in the mirror and say, “GIRL!”  I subconsciously made a decision to be the happiest me that I could possibly be.  I was in the best shape of my life and it was an eventful year full of weddings and celebrations so I was surrounded by love and joy.

When you make decisions, consciously or subconsciously, a test will come to see if you are going to stand on that decision or back down and end up right back in the same cycle of self-doubt.  Something had finally clicked in me and I decided that I was not going back no matter what.  I loved me to much to have to force others to love me.

I remember this day like it was a week ago.  A beautiful sunny fall day filled with endless possibilities and I received two phone calls.  One from a loser and one from a friend.  The first call was my test, the young brother asking me to hang with him despite canceling on me last-minute a few days earlier.  My response, a new transformed me, declined with explanation.  Enough was enough.  I let him know that I knew he would never love or care for me the way I wanted to be loved and cared for and I was merely a convenience.  Our interactions had turned me into someone I did not want for me and I refused to continue to lose me for someone else’s convenience.

Sometimes things take time but sometimes the turn around is quick.  The second call followed immediately after and asked if my friends and I wanted to come hang out with a friend and his wife at their new house.  I immediately said yes and gathered my crew for the trip out to the beltway.  What started off as a quiet get together, immediately transformed into the night that changed my life.  After being there for a few minutes, my friend’s best male friends walk in, including my now husband, and the rest becomes history.

He saw something in me that I wanted everyone else to see for so long.  I did not have to convince him or drag him along, it was just different.  When I loved myself the most is when I found the one who could love me more.  The power of self-love blooms in various ways in our lives, but mine happened to turn into meeting the love of my life.  If there is something holding you back from appreciating all of you, let it go, whether it is internal or external.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your story.  On your own terms.