Friday, June 25, 2010

Living Off the Wall - One Year Later

One year ago today, we lost a creative genius and icon of music, love and originality.   When I think about Michael Jackson, I feel a mixture of sadness, admiration, and joy.  His music and dancing brought so much inspiration into this world that it's hard to believe that anyone could deny that it was his gift and purpose to do so; and that we are all blessed to have been touched by him.

He was idolized, labeled, accused, and adored and he bore the weight of all those things.  His life reminds me to live my life on my own terms regardless of people's praise or blame.  

Below is a repost by Chic Mommy from last year.  We miss you MJ!

"Cause we're the party people night and day. Livin' crazy that's the only way. So tonight, gotta leave that 9 to 5 up on the shelf, and just enjoy yourself. Groove. Let the madness and the music get to you. Life aint so bad at all."

Certainly the untimely death of Pop icon, Michael Jackson, has reminded us all of how fragile life is. Michael once said in an interview that he felt his life was meant to touch people and that he was supposed to do that through his music. He did what he loved and I think that one lesson we can learn from him is that it's so important for us all to do the same--no matter how much flack or criticism we get or what other people think. We have to be ferocious and unafraid in pursuit of our dreams and unrelenting in our desire to touch others in a positive way. Life is so much better when we shake off stress and just LIVE to the best of our own abilities. We should live "off the wall", "dance into the sunlight", moonwalk, ask ourselves "Who's bad?", be dancing machines, Beat It, Don't Stop Til We Get Enough, and Work It Day and Night. By creating an aura of peace and happiness around ourselves, we create a shared peace that is sure to be infectious to others.

"Do what you want to do. There ain’t no rules, its up to you."
-Michael Jackson, "Off the Wall"
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Perfectionists?

GG and I share an interesting trait: we both have discovered we struggle with a need for control and a desire for things in our lives to be as close to our ideas of perfection as possible. Understanding, of course, that perfection does not in fact exist--this notion is the idea that we have of how things in our worlds should look, feel and be scheduled; the neatness of the packaging we desire to present and the order we desire to create.

Converse to this desire that we share is another commonality: we are both mothers to boys with completely different personalities from each other, but who share ties in the acute refusal to be controlled. You can imagine the resulting conundrum; the tenacious push against the "pish-posh-perfect" (a phrase my son coined) environments we try to create. It is manifested in the form of scattered clothing, toys, video games and art supplies and an unspoken refusal to be neat. It appears in a stream of questions about "why?" and whispers disagreement to the explanations that are given. They love us, respect us--but will openly and honestly proclaim that they just don't understand us! They are hard where we are soft, messy where we are neat, adventurous where we are cautious and wise beyond their years.

The result? There was a layer of guilt that would cover us each time our boys made a decision that we wished they wouldn't have; we found ourselves questioning our level of parental dedication every time they made a mistake--completely forgetting what we tell ourselves about our own mistakes: that they're meant to be learned from. Their innocent defiance was becoming a perceived chip in the facade we'd built that encompassed the way we wished to be seen, and a betrayal of the type of mothers we wished to be.

What we have now come to realize (after much soul-searching, prayer, meditation and many tearful conversations) is that in parenting these two strong personalities, they can be disciplined, guided, instructed and coached--but they cannot be controlled. As we impart knowledge, we are forced to accept that we cannot ultimately decide what they will do with it, nor can we predict the corresponding choices that will be made by them now, or as they grow older. More than that, we are learning that this does not make us horrible mothers. It just makes us mothers; this struggle is not ours alone, nor is it any different than what our own mothers went through with us. It is up to us to simply set a strong example and remember that the rest is out of our hands.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beauty is my Birthright

any right or privilege to which a person is entitled at birth

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

I was reading Essence magazine this weekend and became so inspired by the "I Love Being a Black Woman" theme that is a feature of the July issue. I have a four year old daughter and another baby girl on the way, and my biggest wish for their lives is that they love themselves for everything that they are and live fearless and proud in their own skin. It is my honor and challenge to teach them to love themselves unconditionally no matter what influences they face in this world.

Sometimes we get so lost in wanting someone else's hair or body or success, that we become completely disconnected from our own unique nature. I've certainly been guilty of it! I want my hair to curl this way, and my hips to curve that way. I want to have this person's house or that person's clothes.

I once read a quote that says "Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep." So, why do we put ourselves through that? Because we fail to look inside of ourselves for validation and meaning. We fail to recognize our own natural beauty.

photo credit:
I've had to learn through much suffering to appreciate my life by exploring the qualities and experiences that are my birthright. Each of us are so uniquely blessed and crafted to offer something to the world that no one else can. Why not honor our individual journeys by hugging every unexpected bend in the road, taking every opportunity to grow, and understanding that what makes us different is what makes us beautiful?

There are so many textures and depths to our beauty. So, don't compare, contrast or measure your worth to anyone else. Use your strengths, align yourself with your values, do what you love and SHINE - your way. It is your birthright.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Ingrained Responses

The emotional responses ingrained in our brains are strange things. They can be triggered by people, places, smells, songs...basically anything that our brain recognizes as associated with a specific era or event in our lives.

For example, a little while ago on the way to a girlfriend's home, my son told me that when we pass the field where he plays football (which is very near her home) he gets butterflies in his stomach. He said that being near the field immediately calls pre-game nervousness to memory for him; a recollection of wondering whether he and his teammates were going to play well, to win or to lose. Similarly, as I scrolled through Facebook statuses recently, I came upon one written by my high school boyfriend reminiscing about cookouts at his childhood home. I "liked" the status, then proceeded to click to see who the other 5 people were who had also liked the status. One of them was his cousin, who I met for the first time at one such event and still like very much--a pleasant sensory recollection; another was the girl for whom he'd broken up with me to date ever so briefly during my senior year--a very negative sensory recollection that had me immediately up in arms wondering how he could DARE be friends with her, and that sent my brain on a temporary tailspin with flashes of memory from that year.

Um, what the heck?! For starters, it's Facebook--a funny, silly pastime, not to be taken seriously or looked upon as a reflection of anyone's "real" life. And not only was high school a lifetime ago, but I also have nothing more than a passing, friendly interest in this ex's life and no desire to be with him again. In short, I don't really care. But apparently I may have unresolved issues from the way our relationship ended. This was my first real, long-term relationship, and at 17, I didn't know how to deal with what I was feeling--so did I bury a great deal of it? Probably. And though he and I have remained intermittently in touch, we've never discussed what went wrong.

I think it's amazing what we can hold on to without even realizing it, and that this is a good reminder to always allow ourselves to feel what we feel, and to work through it--even if we don't come up with the answers right away. We just never know what could be buried deep inside, coloring our perceptions, or threatening to suddenly disrupt our peace without our knowledge or consent.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Elusive Happiness

We are fortunate to be surrounded by a group of very intelligent and talented friends. One such friend is Professor/Pastor Lawrence Ware. We threw the idea of guest posting out to him, not knowing if he would have the time or even the inclination to write for us, but he agreed without hesitation and we're so pleased that he did. He breaks down the concept/perception of "happiness" in a way that is simple and easily applicable to real life. So without further ado:

Happiness is deceitful.
The root of the word happiness is hap. The explicit use of hap is all but dead in the English language; yet, we find it in other words that can aid us in understanding its meaning: happening and happened. Happiness means pleasure rooted in externalities. In other words, happiness is dependent upon what is happening. If you have a good day, you are happy. If you have a bad day, you are unhappy. If you have a significant other, you are happy; if not, you are unhappy. You get the point.

Our culture reinforces this notion. We are told that if we only had the right body, the right skin complexion, the right kind of hair, the right type of shoes—we would be complete. In fact, just last night, I learned that all I need for happiness was a Big Mac, a new pair of shoes, and a blanket with sleeves. It all made sense. I feel empty inside because I lack a Snuggie. 

Like a donkey chasing a carrot tied to a stick, many passionately pursue what they believe will satisfy their craving for happiness—but it never does. We feel we NEED a cute new pair of shoes. We end up with more money in our closet than our savings account; and then complain about our inability to find anything to wear. Pursuing happiness may feel good temporarily, but it ultimately will leave us further adrift in despair. 

Let me cut to the chase: happiness is not the solution. More money, more clothes, a significant other, another child, a new house will not complete you. 

What is the answer? I can give it to you in one word: contentment.

The word content comes from the 15th Century French word continere. It means to ‘hold in’ or ‘to be contained.’ Put simply, it means that all you need is found within you. What you need to be fulfilled, sustained, and made whole is within you. Let me put it concisely: You complete you.

I’m not talking about lazy complacency, but contentment. That is, feeling satisfied and whole no matter what is happening externally. Yes, you should work hard. Yes, strive for better—but here is the key: do not allow what is happening to dictate your level of satisfaction in life.

Having a bad day at work? Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to work on patience and inner peace. Are your children acting crazy? Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to work on displaying unconditional love. Low on money? Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to work on monetary temperance. View obstacles as opportunities. 

Stop rationalizing your cravings—work to overcome them. Find contentment, and joy will find you.

Lawrence Ware is lecturing professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University and Pastor of Christian Education at Prospect Church. He writes for Tikkun and Religion Dispatchers all while living in Oklahoma City with his wife and son.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Loving the Questions

Can you believe we are just almost half way through 2010??? Time has flown by in a blur of ups, downs, happies and sads. Such is life! It's senseless to fight time or the balance of things. And with that, I am peacefully content with where I am in life. I still have so many questions, but I love the questions. I still have so many contradictions, but I love them too. If the true value of the journey is in the ride, then I'm going to enjoy the ride for all of the traffic jams and breakdowns that come with it. Because life is amazing, scary, bittersweet and mysterious. Life is a blessing that we spend our whole lives trying to understand and appreciate. But, as humans, we don't know what we've got until it's gone.

Today, take a moment to reflect on how far you've come. You may not be where you want to be, but be thankful that you are not where you were. Don't worry about how long it takes you, because remember, there is no race, no finish line and no first place trophy to this thing called life. I read a passage recently that was powerful - "Discover your deeper nature, confront it, and find the courage to live according to it." That pretty much captures what life is about to me.

So, here I am reflecting on the year so far and what I'm doing with my life to discover my deeper nature. Likewise, how am I hindering myself? I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as well as come up with your own.

* I have been embracing concepts that make sense to me and feel true for me, without always putting those concepts into action. Am I still afraid of change? Why?

* I am different than anyone else I know. This should make me feel special and unique, not outcast and unaccepted. Why am I still so afraid of rejection? How does this block my creativity?

* You can't have reward without risk or discovery without vulnerability. Why am I still afraid to fail and still afraid to succeed?

* I know the secret to peace and beauty is to believe in yourself and be your own biggest fan. Am I still seeking validation and approval? Why???

Do you see a theme here? I do. My nemesis - Fear. By facing these questions, breaking habits and by doing the things I fear, I increase my sense of power and I overcome fear.

Now you try. Ask yourself the questions and don't be afraid of the answers.

As for me, I'm off to face my nemesis.
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