Believe Me, Too

Last week, at the pinnacle of the viral #metoo movement, I shared an Ebony article on Facebook. It was a passionately-worded piece wagging its finger at all of the #metoo hype, as if to say, “Hey! We’ve been saying this for a decade and the movement was started by a Black woman!” While the article did feel a bit ragey, with its give-credit-where-credit’s-due feel, it highlighted several things:

  • Black women are overlooked
  • Black people’s problems tend to *stay* Black people’s problems
  • Celebrities with high-profile scandals have a vast reach
  • White celebrities can get ish done

I even wrote a disclaimer on my article-share, warning my friends and followers to not be turned off by the title and tone. I urged my friends to read it. Read it becausmetoo snipe hey, this isn’t new. This is all races, all sexes, all genders. And it’s a whole lot easier to ignore abused people – especially when we’re shouting from the margins.

Well, I had a friend. That one (sometimes three) friend(s), that did have to say something about – by my own words – “playing the Race Card.”

He expressed his thought that justice is great, why bring race into it? Just be grateful this is getting attention! 

I saw red. I saw flames. If I had laser eyes to shoot at his fingers on the keyboard via the inter webs, I would have aimed and fired. We went back and forth a little, but then he did something amazing that I never expected. He took it to the DM.

And it went down. But it went down beautifully.

He asked me to explain how we missed each other, why his challenge to my article-share insulted me, and how he can be a better ally.

Yeah. He asked how he could serve me

And by the time we exchanged stories, we were both in tears.

We saw each other. We heard each other.

He asked …how he could be a better ally.

This is my DM response to him, (some parts edited for this blog and names removed), and it’s   something that all well-intentioned white people should read before they roll their eyes at yet another angry Black woman that makes everything about race and gender:

[TLDR Version: Privilege is real. We live in a constant state of gender and race humiliation. It happened to me, too. Believe us. Whether its racism or sexism, believe us.]

 

PRIVILEGE

The first time I ever saw white privileged was when I was going through my divorce. Yeah. I know it sounds weird. My first time. But when you’re Black in America you only see the negative attitudes towards your own race and not the actual privilege of being white. That’s not our side of the story. When he and I decided to split, I was the one that was depressed and miserable in the far burbs so I was happy to move.

But I had spent the majority of our marriage as a full-time mom/student with part time gigs. I didn’t have a resume, savings or a sustaining job. Every day while I was still home with the kids, he would come home and say: did you get a job yet? How many applications? Any interviews? How about an apartment? When are you leaving? The pressure was maddening. I wanted to punch him and throw up and run away crying all at once. Every. Day. I felt unwanted and lazy and rejected.

But then I realized he wasn’t deliberately bullying me. He just had no idea. He didn’t have a resume. He’s never had to sell himself on a piece of paper to strangers. He’s never asked strangers for a job and he’s never not gotten an offer for a job he asked for. He lives in a bubble of privilege where he’s never had to go without or rely solely on his own talents. He’s never had to worry that he wouldn’t get an interview because his name sounds “exotic” or “weird.”

He’s never had to worry that someone would look at him and think “a man can’t do this” or “a dad can’t do this.” That is privilege. But people always think a woman can’t do this or a mom isn’t as committed as a childless person. These are things I choke on daily.

He had no idea how difficult it can be to get a job especially when you’re not a white man.

HUMILIATION

You aren’t humiliated by others for the color of your skin.
I just got a lotus tattoo for my birthday. Beauty and blessings springing forth from the mud. X— made some mud comments about me in sixth grade. Again, not your reality. Not even on your radar. But it was stinging and humiliating. It made me feel ugly and less than and unlike and unaccepted and rejected and reminded me that I will never be one of you.

My new ink is my peace with that. I know now that I am beautiful and talented and radiantly intimidating. In first grade I had to change for gym class alone because my changing buddy’s mom found out she was undressing with a black girl and didn’t want me around her daughter. And that, too. All the time: Black girl. I hate it when people say, “so this Black person — no offense — was talking…” Why is “Black person” offensive? I’m not sorry I’m Black. Does my Blackness offend you? Why are you apologizing? I am Black! Say it! Black isn’t a bad word. N** is. Black isn’t. Neither is white. Say it. We are our colors and we all deserve to be seen.

BELIEVE ME

With all of that said, it is SO crushing then, when I say to someone, for example, a white significant other, “Babe I had a weird experience today and I really feel like it was racially motived,” and he says, “nahhh I don’t think so. Maybe you did something wrong.” That’s the most devastating thing. When people in the majority point fingers at me and accuse me of playing the race card.

When I experience something and feel sad and violated and discriminated and someone that couldn’t possibly be able to relate blows me off and says they don’t believe me — it’s a terribly crippling feeling. It’s gaslighting. It’s crazymaking.

If I say “this feels racist,” BELIEVE ME. Please. This is my world, not yours. Please believe me that something hurts and it’s not fair. What if we went to the doctor complaining of illness and he doc says, “Mmmnah I don’t think so. Stop whining!”

#METOO

The last place I worked my coworker rubbed my knee under my dress when the two of us were alone in a conference room. Later he “brushed” past me rubbing his body on my butt. Twice. And then when we were leaving that hospital site, we were alone in an elevator and he stroked my face. Twice. Because I looked tired. I wanted to slit his throat and set myself on fire.

When I reported him to HR, the woman said,” nahhh I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound like X—. Maybe he meant…”

By this time I was numb and tuned her out. Here’s a woman WHOSE JOB IT IS TO TAKE MY REPORT and she didn’t believe my story. #metoo

This happened to me! And she didn’t care. Now, sidebar, there is another dynamic between women where unsolicited sexual advances by an attractive man are not crimes but compliments. Part of me wonders if she was jealous that X— was flirting with me and not her?? Who knows. I don’t care. The point is that she didn’t believe my experience. But she’s not me. Don’t tell me my truth is not true. Now this part is for you and your brilliant girls: when they come to you, and they will, and they say, “Papa someone made me feel weird today,” BELIEVE THEM.

Don’t ask what or if they did anything to deserve it. Don’t tell them “nnnnnno I don’t think it’s like that. Why are you forcing some issue into this?“
Don’t assume they’re just girls making things up or being dramatic or being emotional or too sensitive or being [insert negative idea about women here].

Listen. Believe them.
They will need you to just believe them. And hold them. And validate them. And tell them it’ll be ok. And tell them you’ll do something.

And then… do something.

~OR

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Historic Leaders Back From the Dead to Save U.S. from Trump 

February 1 marked Trump’s first day of his first Black History Month as President of the United States. His speech was the first of a (nother) series of (more) embarrassing statements, this time implying that he was neither aware of historic abolitionist Frederick Douglass nor informed that Douglass is dead and has been for nearly 122 years.

Following his perplexing speech, best summarized on The Slot, Trump’s spokesperson answered questions with the same confounded ignorance.

“I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer said.

Well, they’re back.

Douglass Tubman 2020
@FDouglass2020

Trump and team’s foolishness has resurrected an entire army of dead presidents and iconic civil rights leaders to thwart the destructive plans of this orange-ish villain and save us all from ourselves.

Frederick Douglass rolled over in his grave and began a Twitter account to not only help educate the very monochromatic and Black History-dumb White House administration but to also energize the resistance and, apparently, put his name on the 2020 presidential ballot. In fact, Trump’s foolishness has resurrected an entire army of dead presidents and iconic civil rights leaders to thwart the destructive plans of this orange-ish villain and save us all from ourselves.

Douglass Tubman 2020
http://www.frederickdouglass2020.com

Douglass tweeted to Trump, “Gearing up for 2020 campaign…and you thought dead registered voters were your biggest problem.”

His running mate? No less than Queen Moses herself, Harriet Tubman. The two have since adopted a campaign slogan in response to Spicer’s absurd statement (which I developed for them, you’re welcome!) “Doing More than More and More. Doing The Most,” developed their campaign website, and have awoken other leaders from their tombs as well.

Octavia Reese
@octaviaaivatco

It’s true, the long-deceased American icons won’t stay dead while Trump brashly and thoughtlessly undoes centuries of their hard work.

This team of magically invoked super heroes includes Douglass’s wife, Anna Murray Douglass (@FLOTUS20Twenty), Sojourner Truth (@SojoTruth2020) and former president John Quincy Adams (@NortoriusJQA).

While some have been waiting for the second coming of Christ to get us out of this, it looks like all we need right now is a comic book-worthy team of dead abolitionists and presidents. In addition to being highly entertaining, the Douglass campaign is already awakening sleeping lessons of the past, shining a light on our very powerful African-American heritage and giving a timely voice to our ancestors’ contributions. Looking forward to history leading the resistance from beyond.

Doing the Most for America.

Douglass Tubman 2020
@FDouglass2020

~OR

Why I Aborted My Pro-Life Movement

It’s time for the annual Pro-Life Rally in Washington. I was there when I was 17. I was a staunch Republican. I regurgitated the propaganda like a good Catholic girl. I chanted, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!” at the top of my lungs and even in my sleep. I saved my stop sign poster. I pinned it to my wall.

About a year later, my heart hurt. I felt like I had let myself down. I felt like I had betrayed my faith, my voice as an American citizen, and my honor as a Christian to love my neighbor. I took my poster down. I closed my mouth. I started thinking and listening more than yelling and parroting. That was the beginning of the end of my affiliation with the Republican party. But that’s another story…

Morally and ethically speaking, I am still pro-life. Politically speaking, I turned my back and here’s why.

  1. I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 1). I’m the sort of Christian that leads with my heart. Compassion. Empathy. Gratitude. Not contempt, condemnation and fear. When I took the required ethics course at my very conservative, very born-again, very evangelical high school, it forced me to think. I can’t say it had the outcome they expected, but think I did and for that I’m grateful. I couldn’t understand why all these Christians that powerfully led with their faith and spewed out Sanctity of Life rhetoric around fetuses were also passionately pro-war, pro-gun, pro-defense, and pro-death penalty. If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred? If it is a law to save the babies, then also make it a law to destroy your guns, disassemble your bombs, resolve conflict with peace, and abolish the death penalty.

 

If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred?

 

  1. I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 2). God gave us the gift of choice. And what God gives to us, shouldn’t we pay forward? Love? Forgiveness? In acknowledging the holiness of our God-breathed existence, shouldn’t we honor the way that God created us, which is in God’s image, with free will? Free will is a God-like quality. That. Is. Terrifying. We are little gods running around the planet. But instead of giving out free will like The God, we use our free will to take it away from others. Wait what? Yeah. No. That makes zero sense. How dare we deny God’s gift to each other to make our own decisions! If we restrict or diminish what God has given us, we are elevating ourselves above God. By withholding God’s gift of free will, we are interfering in God’s blessing and ultimately condemning ourselves. Respecting free will is respecting our God-given gift of independent thoughts, ideas and values.

I chose to have my children.

  1. Personal preferences shouldn’t be laws. I like chocolate cake. That doesn’t mean in Octavia’s country red velvet cake is illegal. Those that enjoy red velvet should not be mocked, ridiculed and imprisoned. If you want red velvet, eat your red velvet. I will have chocolate. Enjoy. It’s your body, eat what you want. Ok, my cake metaphor is hokey. I’m no anarchist. I think laws are necessary. I think people should be held accountable. But laws are necessary for public health, for the greater good, for things that universally affect, protect and care for all of us. The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.

 

  1. Pro-Choice does not equal pro-abortion. No one loves abortion. Have you ever seen anyone get excited and throw a party because they’re having an abortion? Absolutely not. The thought of it makes me sick. But being a parent, what crushes me even more is an unwanted, unloved, and uncared for child being born and forced even deeper into the margins, made to be invisible, desperately trying to survive and make a life, ultimately falling into the cracks and statistically, crime, drugs, prison or death. Where is the sanctity in this life? Who is rushing to adopt all of the children that might be forced to exist? If abortion becomes illegal, someone had better start building the biggest and swankiest home and school for all of these children and also providing top-rate prenatal healthcare, birthing luxuries and post-partum care for all of their mothers. Better yet, this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs. What would happen if we held men as accountable for providing for and caring for their babies as the mothers? If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. It’s your choice. I chose to have my children. I can’t imagine if the tables were turned and I were forced to abort.

The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.

 

  1. The Pro-Life agenda is punishing women for having sex. It isn’t about the babies. It’s about condemning a woman for being a woman and enjoying being a woman. It’s about forcing her into shame because she tasted the pleasures of sex and doesn’t want (or isn’t equipped to take on) long-term consequences of a child. Ridiculous variations of this include forcing her to fully fund arrangement of funeral services and burying her aborted child or even the threat of imprisonment for murder. But why is it always the woman that is dishonored? Her body will be wrecked from the inside out. She will struggle emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. Who has compassion for this woman? I don’t even want to start ranting about cases of rape or incest. If this is a shame game, it takes two to make the child, so please, bring in the father. Bring the man in! Inflate his insides and stretch his abdominal skin 500x the normal size. Implant a 10lb parasite that rubs on his organs, sits on his bladder, pinches his nerves and kicks his lungs. Slice him from rectum to urethra. Let him bleed for two months to recover. Let him suffer along with her and the two can collectively wear the shame of procreation. Back to point No. 4, if this is about guilt and consequences, make the daddies personally fund every ounce of healthcare required to have a healthy pregnancy, birth and post-partum recovery. And let him raise the child.

 

…this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs.

 Also, criminalizing abortion is not a decline in abortion. It’s a decline in healthy, medically-sound, legal abortions and an increase of dangerous quick-fixes and botched shortcuts. If a woman is determined not to have her baby, she will find a way not to have her baby. Believe me. We are resourceful. This is dangerous. This is terrifying. How many women will be put at risk for permanent damage or infection – or mental breakdowns – because they’re inducing miscarriages or inflicting self-harm? This is the ultimate punishment. And for what? Having sex?

To those marching: good for you. I support marches and protests and anyone speaking their voice. But I ask you to stop and consider why you’re marching. Would it be better to share compassion to women going into an abortion? Or maybe you could volunteer at Planned Parenthood to help educate women on how to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Maybe you could even start a young women’s self-care initiative to help girls validate themselves rather than looking for approval and acceptance through sexually pleasing a man. There are so many alternatives that are equally pro-life but not anti-women. 

Carrying a child is a blessing; a magical God-like honor. And it is an honor for her to choose her path. Let the woman decide for herself. Stop talking and start listening. Be a vessel of compassion, not contempt.

~ OR

Remember who you are

This MLK day is somehow more meaningful to me than the previous 34. In the last three years, I’ve become more aware. More aware of my likes and dislikes. Of what I will accept for myself and from others and what I will absolutely not tolerate. More aware of what makes me belly laugh and what makes me giggle nervously. More aware of things that bring me joy and things that bring me heartache. More aware of my unique strengths and genuine weaknesses. More aware of what I want to and can change and of what I cannot change. I’m more aware of the talents I bring to the table and how and what I can contribute; more aware of what I cannot do and where I must ask for help. I’m more aware of my voice and when to speak up. I’m more aware of when to sit quietly and listen. I’m more aware of the forces of nature, the science of instincts, the patterns of behavior, and the mystery of spirituality. More aware of what my You see, I’m more aware of who I am. Today, I remember who I am. And I am more than any condition or less-than ideology.

I cannot hate you without also hating myself.

I’m not beautiful for my age. I am beautiful. Period.

My dreadlocs aren’t clean and gorgeous for locs. My locs are gorgeous. Period. And my hair is my crown. Period.

My skin isn’t not-so-dark. My skin is dark and delicious. Period.

I don’t speak well for a Black girl. I speak well. Period.

I haven’t accomplished a lot for someone in my situation. I have accomplished a lot. Period.

I haven’t done a lot for someone from 6mile in Detroit. I have done a lot. Period.

I don’t have an amazing body for a mom. I have an amazing body. Period.

I’m neither too confident nor too independent. I’m confident and independent. Period. 

I’m not strong for a woman. I’m strong. Period.

Remember who you are.

If you’re having a memory lapse, society has you feeling less-than, you’re swimming through a sea of can’ts and aren’t sure of who you are or where you’re going, these three things always get my feet back on solid ground:

Ubuntu.

When I was Miss Michigan, my platform was Building Bridges through International Experiences. I spoke on the importance of stepping outside of the box of normalcy, moving past fear and judgment to experience life alongside someone different from you. I encouraged my audiences to love and embrace each other as their neighbors on the planet. I told my audiences about Ubuntu, a South African word so broad and beautiful there is no direct translation into English. But it means humanity. It means compassion. It means we are one. We are each other. It means I cannot hate you without also hating myself. Remember who you are.

I am a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.

One of my favorite professions of faith, Desiderata, which came to me under very supernatural conditions and I reflect on with unlimited love, reminds me that we – all of us here on this planet – are made of the same combinations of chemical elements that make up life-giving trees and energy-producing stars. Yes, the same science that explains the breathtaking beauty of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights is the same science that makes electrical impulses flex our heart muscles and fires neurons to process external stimuli. Once you let that reality sink in, how could you ever doubt yourself and your own abilities and goals? You are magical! How could you ever endure diminishing and degrading societal norms when you truly understand that we are literally all the same elements? How could you ever think to humiliate or denigrate your neighbor? We are made of each other. How can I hate you without also hating myself? Ubuntu. Remember who you are.

The same power that raises the dead is inside of you.

About a year ago, one of the lead pastors at my church elaborated on the idea of God in us. In, being one of the four words he used to detail how to be one with God in all of God’s glory in his book, Four Small Words. In that sermon, he said, “The same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in you.”

There are only a few sermon statements that stay with me and stay forever. That was one of them. If you are Christian (and I am) and truly believe that women and men are made in the image of God, are we not equipped with the capacity to embody even a fraction of God’s limitless love and power? And if you are any other agnostic believer, and God – The Universe – The Creator – The Physicist – Love – whatever you believe God to be – is all knowing, powerful, loving and present, are we not made of that same magic? Indeed we are. We are radiant beams of energy, composed of the same spirit juice that created our entire spectrum of sensations and range of emotions and capacity to exist.  Remember who you are.

The same science that explains the breathtaking beauty of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights is the same science that makes electrical impulses flex our heart muscles and fires neurons to process external stimuli.

When I look out at the pain and negativity pulsing across our world today, I have to admit I am terrified. But rather than feeling discouraged, I am empowered. My fear emboldens me – not to persecute, point fingers, and blame others for my discomfort, but to remember who I am, who we are and be better. I’m encouraged because I know that our world needs us now – us, meaning, those of us who know who we are. When you remember who you are, you realize that it is up to us to embody compassion, exhibit love, and shine our light brighter than the darkness that threatens to oppress, bully, humiliate and weaken others. Remember who you are and be better.

Today, I remember who I am. I am a cosmic and radiant goddess and I am beyond any limiting, diminishing condition. I am. Period.

Sweet Relief: Three Ways to Cleanse Your Spirit

Do you ever have epiphanies on the toilet? I do. Here’s one…stay with me…

The Toilet Diaries: December 2, 2016

This morning as I changed my feminine product, emptied my bladder and bowels, I got chills. The chills of relief when all the waste I’d been holding inside for 8-plus hours finds its exit and I can relax. I felt my body melt into itself exhaling, “Ahhhh this feels better.”

If our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul.

I remembered being a child and laughing hysterically with my best friend at the phrase, “What a relief!” in response to having a nice long steamy piss.

But all this relieving eviction of body product got me to thinking…if our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul: emotions, spirit and psyche.

Have you ever tried to hold your pee when a convenient toilet escapes you? Perhaps you’ve experienced the horrifying “prairie-dog” effect when your body just can’t make the dog stay in the hole. For the love of all things holy, why can’t the careful walk to the toilet also be the swiftest? The gush of blood when you just weren’t prepared. Eating that one wrong meal and you can’t keep the food down. And don’t your eyes pop out of your head if you try *not* to sneeze or do it with your eyes open? Or worse yet, martyring yourself trying to hold your gas for mutually the fear of embarrassment and the olfactory safety of your neighbors, but you finally reason with yourself to free the trapped air and your heart sinks into your pants when you feel that it’s actually a shart? Please, dear God no!

It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.

Heaven bless the perky rebound after throwing up too much alcohol or a disagreeable dish. Freedom. The cosmically orgasmic sneeze when our bodies reject a sinus intruder. Yes! More! Finally taking that Austin Powers-long pee after a good night’s sleep. Hallelujah! Making it to a toilet when your intestines have had enough. Pure ecstasy! Feeling your body deflate five inches once you release a massive gas pocket. Slow, wordless smile.

It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.

For our physical bodies to function properly, the ugly must come out, up, down, AWAY. And into the air or down the drain. Are we properly cleansing our minds, spirits and hearts of its waste too? How do you practice the letting go of old memories and heartache that is certainly rotting and creating toxic fumes that prevent us from healthy function? I came up with three categories that sum it all up for me:

1. Burn

    Fire is a timeless symbol of not only power and passion but also equally life and death. The phoenix sets itself ablaze only to rise from the ashes again. Burning incense is a universally sacred practice. Two ways to burn yourself clean: first, sage. Smudging is another ancient practice of purifying space, energy and literally the air around you by smoldering leaves or sticks. The second is by naming your filth – write a letter to someone you need to forgive, write down the missteps that are anvils to your soul. Maybe it will be paragraphs; maybe it will be pages. Write it all down, weep over it, and then light it up and let it go…safely of course.

    2. Birth

      Nothing says out with the old like in with the new. The order doesn’t matter. Sometimes the arrival of something new can push the old aside. Other times, you’ve successfully eradicated your spirit gunk and although its exit is healthy, you’re left with a void of what was. Cleansing yourself through newness can be anything – something powerful that you create, design, develop; a therapeutic shopping spree to signify change; the first ceremony of a new tradition; moving or relocating to start anew in a new place; find a new way to give back to the community. Dumping your spirit’s waste in this way can be your renaissance.

      3. Be

        This is my personal self-care favorite. Being. As an extrovert, I tend to find my energy among people, but I also have introvert tendencies and need to indulge in delicious hermit-like moments to find my balance. Part of my soul-cleansing process includes quality alone time. This isn’t the avoidant type of me-time that includes eating comforting lime chicken or steak tacos (La Pasadita is the best – corn tortilla, onions & cilantro) on my couch in droopy sweatpants I’ve had since high school and watching made-for-TV movies from the 90s (you know the ones with Tori Spelling and Joanna Kerns…). Although these moments feel GREAT, I mean the actual art of being. Unplugging, looking inward, opening your soul to let go of the old and bad and ugly, and welcome in love and compassion and light. Meditate, pray, go to a sensory deprivation chamber, go off the grid for a few hours – heck, try a whole week! Delete the site history of the internet browser that is your soul and refresh your deepest core.

        Spiritual cleansing sweet relief soul waste
        If you have more tips – or have particular success with any of these, please write to me and let me know. Let’s continue the upward trend of healthy release. What. A.  Relief. 

        ~OR

        2017 Mantra: Allow the Magic 

        I’m not part of Team Burn 2016 To the Ground. I had a great year. While it was full of loss – of lives, loved ones, and trust; and equally full of pain, heartache and betrayal. I was assaulted, attacked, violated, harassed, disrespected, insulted, bullied and berated. I got hurt a lot in 2016.

        But here’s the thing: 2016 was also overwhelmingly also full of growth. I grew in areas where I didn’t even know I needed to be challenged. I saw things from other perspectives when I thought I had already examined all options. I saw myself with new eyes. I saw others with new eyes, too. I learned vulnerability and openness. I remembered how to relax and be OK with – and without – being OK. I learned to advocate for myself. I was encouraged, inspired, uplifted, empowered, adored, cherished, complemented and celebrated. I was seen and lovingly embraced a lot in 2016, too.

        What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?

        Last night, after the various glittery balls around the world dropped and the star in Chicago rose, one of my best friends asked, “So what’s your 2017 Mantra? Every year starts with a mantra!”

         

        I hadn’t put much thought into it, but some of my best ideas are my gut’s first urging. My inner voice cried out before she even finished her thought:

         

        WHAT YOU ALLOW WILL CONTINUE, it said.

         

        I use this phrase a lot when I’m being the wise best friend and my girl had another run-in with the crappy boyfriend. But until the most intimate part of my living energy spurted it out, I had never considered it in all areas of my life.

        2017 is my year of boundaries – with myself, with my children, with my friends, family and love interests. What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?

         

        1. What I allow for myself will continue. I have dreams. Goals. Aspirations. I have a vision for my mind, body and spirit. In the last five years, those milestones have been on a revolving scale with timelines extended due to the circumstances. But what if I held myself to a new standard? What if I did whatever it takes to make my dreams come true? What if I allowed myself to never hit snooze on a weekday and actually go to the gym before work? What if I stopped allowing myself to take a pass on packing my lunch and stopped eating at restaurants every day? What if I stopped choosing (anything else) over finishing the laundry?

        What I will allow to continue for myself is being bold and radiant. Living into my calling rather than shying away from it. I will allow myself to eat healthy and spend wisely. I will allow myself to be disciplined in study, art, music, dance, and fitness. I will allow myself to enjoy my lifestyle to the fullest.

         

         

        1. What I allow for my children will continue. Tantrums, whining, begging, screaming, arguing, avoiding chores, procrastinating…typical for children, yes, but these aren’t things they outgrow. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of adults this year have adult sized tantrums, and bicker, tease and bully like children. My responsibility as a parent is to raise adults that can think critically and handle adulting without reverting to infantile behaviors on grown-up scales. Discipline, emotional maturity, and calm problem solving starts now.

        What I will allow to continue for my children is positive reinforcement, intentional quality time, praise and rewards, boundaries, healthy conversations about emotions, and more responsibility with contributing to our home and housework.

         

        1. What I allow for my friends will continue. I’ve lost friends this year – some to death, yes but in this case, I’m referring to friends lost due to just being slowly squeezed out of the circle; so slowly I wasn’t sure it was happening until it was over. And that’s OK. But I realized that over the years some of those friends have deeply hurt me, whether they knew it or not. I’ve allowed myself to suffer in silence, not fully understanding that I had power within me all along to steer those friendships; I just didn’t use it. I’m also learning that in forever friendships, a silent friend does not equate to a good friend. Just like in marriages, or any lifelong connection, if you’re not challenging each other in growth, what the heck are you doing for each other? Friends cannot allow friends to follow destructive paths, nor can they allow their friends to take the easiest route, avoiding their highest potential.

        What I will allow to continue for my friends is the glorious give-and-take of enjoying each other’s’ company. We come bearing gifts for each other – gifts of time, growth, comfort, compassion, acceptance, laughter, presence, love and forgiveness.

         

        1. What I allow for my family will continue. I have a colorful family. I don’t mean ethnicity or lifestyle. I mean psychologically. My entire life I’ve been around destructive patterns that I’ve had to endure – or perhaps that I’ve allowed myself to endure. It’s OK to respectfully decline abusive conversations. It’s OK for me to not allow this cycle to continue.

        What I will allow to continue for my family is accepting and loving me for who I am and who I want to be. We will speak to each other with tenderness and empathy, and respect the decisions we’ve made for our individual lives.

         

        1. What I allow for my love interests will continue. Just last week, I had a potential date. Someone I met online on a Monday, began texting on a Wednesday and was about to meet in person on a Friday. But this person was already playing power games – holding something over my head and expecting me to jump for it. He set the foundation for our relationship that he would have all the cards and I would have to take whatever he dealt. I shut it down immediately. He gave me a beautiful apology, which I accepted. I also told him that power games now meant power games in five years and I’m just going to pass. I cancelled our date and we never met. It was deeply fulfilling. And also deeply healing. While I would love to be in a partnership, I am very happy without a significant other, and there is no reason I should make these kinds of exceptions – especially with a stranger – just to not be “single.”

        What I will allow to continue for my romantic relationships is serving each other in love, enjoying each other’s company and uplifting each other’s dreams. We will design our own family culture, and have patience, compassion and forgiveness with our flaws. We will accept each other without the intent of changing one another and will grow together, helping each other along the way. We’ll communicate freely, welcome vulnerability and set expectations. We will allow each other to be sad, angry, upset, without letting that shake our unconditional love.

         

        There’s no badge of honor in martyring yourself for the comfort of others. If you are unhappy, uncomfortable, unfulfilled, unimpressed, and uncertain, just say no. Don’t allow it to continue. Allow yourself to live into your truest self because denying your inner voice is the biggest crime you could commit against the world. You – and I – are here to be our best and truest selves. You – and I – are our greatest gifts to the world.

         

        2017 is my year of boundaries. My #shutitdown year. My #allowthemagic year. I’m a fierce and cosmic goddess, formed in the image of God and the same elements of the cosmos. I am strong and powerful, if I allow myself to be.

        Octavia reese cosmic goddess allow the magic  

        What’s your 2017 Mantra?

        Octavia reese 2017 mantra magic
        2017 Mantra

        ~OR 

        Dating…with Children PART 2: The Childless Other Person

        So, you’re smitten with a parent…but half of those kids’ chromosomes are not from you. Yikes.

        Wait…

        Not yikes! Shame on you! We’re awesome!

        OK, no shame, really. It’s totally acceptable. In my opinion, any aversion to dating a single parent is just as superficial as being primarily attracted to a certain skin color or body type. And the stigma of single parenthood is just as archaic as Jim Crow laws. Unfortunately, the philosophies still prevail today; they simply lurk under different headings  <ahem bathroom & gender ahem> [don’t get me started]  or are introduced with false acceptance such as, I’m fine with it, BUT...

        Save your big but.

        Abstaining from single parents is simply your preference. It’s also something you can get over – if you want to. But the cool thing about dating is that you get to date who you want. So if you’re likely to avoid dating a parent, that’s OK. This article is not for you. You can also jump onto chats like these and connect with your fellow brethren.

        Ok ok ok, maybe I’m a little bitter. But still. I’ve been burned. I’ll venture to average about 90% of men I’ve dated since my divorce that either went ghost or ended things because I’m a mom have come back, regretting their judgmental rush to rule me out. Well, as I’ve said before: 1. I’m awesome (along with many other single parents) and 2. I will not be back-burnered while you look for something better. Because when you come back feeling silly and want another try, this is what I’ll say: Nope.

        And I might sing this song.

        And I might make this face.

        comeback

        On the other hand, if you are brave enough to think about entering into a relationship with a single parent or if you are already in a relationship with a single parent, here are some things to consider:

        1. It’s OK to say you’re not ready. So, yes, you are head over heels for a single parent. Praise Baby J. But you’re terrified to meet the kids. What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them? What if they’re naughtier than you expected? What if xn?

        Remember, you have a voice. If things are moving too fast for you, just speak up. Slow does not mean no. No means no. Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids. The same way kids deserve two happy and healthy parents, they deserve the happiest and healthiest version of YOU as the significant other. If you’re really with your Best Match, they’ll understand and respect your pace.

        Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids.

        1. Acknowledge what you’re in for. I’m reading this incredible book right now called Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortnberg. A section in the very beginning stood out to me and will stay with me forever:

        A friend of mine was ordering breakfast during a recent trip in the South. He saw grits on the menu, and being a Dutchman who spent most of his life in Michigan, he had never been very clear on the nature of this item. So he asked the waitress, “What exactly is a grit?”

        Her response was a classic. “Honey,” she said (in the South, waitresses are required by law to address all customers as “honey”), “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.”

        Grits don’t exist in isolation. No grit is an island, entire unto itself. Every grit is a part of the mainland, a piece of the whole. You can’t order a single grit. They’re a package deal.

        “Call it a clan, call it a tribe, call it a network, call it a family,” says Jane Howard. “Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” It is not good for man to be alone. Dallas Willard says, “The natural condition of life for human beings is reciprocal rootedness in others.” Honey, you don’t come by yourself.

         

        None of us come by ourselves. Even if you’re an anti-single-parent dater, you still have to deal with your lover’s mother(s), father(s), sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, cousins, best friends, work friends, kinda-friends, dogs, cats, lizards, fish…germs. Everyone comes with an arsenal of people and connections and microorganisms that you’re going to have to navigate anyway. So kids aren’t going to be that much more added to the circus for which you’ve already bought non-refundable tickets.

        Kids are a lot of work. They’re needy. They’re loud. They’re rude. They’re dirty. They’re messy. But they’re also hilarious. Compassionate. Honest. Adorable. Gentle. Affectionate. And they’ll teach you more about life than any fancy professor with a ton of letters after their name. You’ll feel drained, overwhelmed, terrified, uncertain, and you’ll probably doubt your decision at least three times a day.

        But children are, unfortunately (or fortunately?), temporary; just like any season, phase, and quite frankly, all of life. So enjoy the ride. Savor the moments. Take pictures. Smell the rain. Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

        As I mentioned in PART 1, the kids will grow up, move out, chase their own dreams and start their own families. At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together? It will be worth it.

        Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

        1. Remember what we’re NOT. Single parents are not charity cases. We don’t want your pity. We don’t want favors. We are strong, resilient and dedicated. We are fierce and driven. We’re survivors. We don’t need you to be our hero because we’ve already become our own heroes –for ourselves and for our children. Please don’t date us thinking we need you or that karma is going to come rain goodies on you because you’ve taken in what others have kicked out. Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person. If you think you’re doing some noble deed by dating a single parent, please leave us alone.

        Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person.

        1. Know your role and know your value. You are engaging in a partnership with someone that could be – or is – your Best Match. Your role in their life and family is their Best Match. You are not a substitute parent (and PLEASE don’t even entertain the temptation to compete with or one-up the other parent). You are not a babysitter. You are not a disciplinarian. If you feel a lot of pressure to fill roles outside of significant other, speak up. Of course, joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world. It’s better to slow down and limit your time with the kids than to impose and confuse them. Remember that your presence might make them feel guilty; like they’re cheating on their other parent by enjoying your company. More on the kids point of view in Part 3…

        Your role to the children varies, depending on their age and developmental stage when you enter the scene, but you are always meaningful. As your relationship with the kids grows, you can be a huge asset – especially to older children. For teens in particular, you might be their preferred adult confidant and listening ear; they might open up to you more than they would their biological parent, trusting that you will guide them without shaming them. You can be a very powerful positive influence for them when they need a consistent and reliable presence the most; something really meaningful, filling a unique space between friend and parent.

        Joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world.

        1. Communicate – comfort level and expectations. I personally hold to the One Year Rule. When you have kids and you’re dissolving a marriage in the state of Illinois, you’re required to take an online course and pass an exam on successful co-parenting. It was actually very practical! (High Five, State of IL!) When it comes to significant others, the course recommends the One Year Rule; that you and your significant other have been consistently and officially dating for at least one year before making introductions to the kids. This is to protect the children – from confusion, from having too many inconsistent people coming in and out of their home, from getting attached and then getting heartbroken when you break up, from setting their relationship norm to a standard of “shallow” and “temporary,” and so forth.

        If one year is too long – or not long enough – speak up. As I mentioned in another article on starting a relationship off right, holding back your fears or reservations only plants seeds of resentment. Communication is the foundation to any relationship, no matter how intimate or minuscule. So speak up. Discuss. If you’re not comfortable sleeping over, say so. If you don’t want to watch the kids, don’t. If you’re not ready to be alone with the children, let it be known! Your successful and loving relationship with your significant other’s kids revolves around you being comfortable enough to be your Best Self. Those adorable kids deserve to receive the best version of you when you’re together.

        At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together?

        So talk about the big things with your partner and check in to make sure you’re still on the same page. Coordinate schedules, make sure you have date nights, make sure your interactions with the kiddies are balanced – neither imposing nor scant – and if the other parent is in the picture, you’d better figure out how to cooperate with them, too! Grits, man. Amirite?

         

        Check back soon for PART 3: The Kids.

        ~OR

        Dating …With Children PART 1: The Single Parent

        Well, we made it. I made it. Another Father’s Day in the books. It’s true. Father’s Day is tough for me. It’s my annual trip down Agony Lane. But as I think about fathers and mothers and parenting and parenting solo, I think it’s time I dissect this whole single-parent-dating thing.

        Can I be blunt? Great. Dating is hard work. It’s exhausting. It’s depleting. It’s frustrating. It’s confusing. It’s dangerous. But, assuming folks are open about our goals, desires, and expectations, it can be fun, exciting, and empowering.

        But that’s just the dating adults. What happens when you’re a single parent and you have to juggle parenting as well as being open to finding your own Best Match? There are many critical players involved; for example, Parent No 1, Parent No 2, child/children, Significant Other No 1, Significant Other No 2, just to name a few. If there are multiple children with multiple parents, we’ll need an entire cast list to keep on-hand just for clarity.

        How each person acts and reacts and how that lands in each person’s world is one of the most delicate and crucial dances we can play as single-and-dating-parents. I have learned that it’s easier dating other single parents. We get each other. We get scheduling, we get priorities, we get boundaries. We’re on the same page…for the most part. Dating non-parents is not impossible. It is, however, complicated because those above issues are completely foreign. They usually don’t understand schedule conflicts, the never-ending exhaustion, the waking up at 3:24am just because someone wanted a snuggle; the perpetual barrage of stuff that can’t just stay put-away, the parenting priorities, etc. Even though some might be mature enough to empathize and offer patience and space as your relationship develops, non-parents will never understand until they join the club.

        [Tangent: I’m also curious about why women are more open to dating a single father than men are to dating a single mother… single fathers are seen as tender, selfless saints whereas single mothers are usually…not seen this way…something about sperm ego, I’m sure… ((eye roll)) men and their territories ((smh)) [tangent over]

        So over the next few days, I’m going to deliver a three-part break-down of Dating with Children; one from The Single Parent’s point of view, one from The Childless Other Person’s point of view, and one from The Kid’s point of view.

        Let’s start from The Single Parent, my present role and the role I know best.

        PART 1: The Single Parent

        1. Do Take Your Time. Translation: don’t rush into something led by infatuation and begin introductions (especially to children!) prematurely. I had to lead with that one. It is the most raw for me mostly because I lose a lot of dates this way; when non-parents get freaked out about meeting the kids or trying to picture themselves as a step parent before I’m even ready to acknowledge a second date. Stop it. Slow your roll. Pump the brakes. Calm your nipples.

        Unfortunately, a lot of relationships start out hot and heavy; two people that have been desperately aching for something – anything – meaningful find each other and before you know it you’ve crammed three years of dating into three weeks, your relationship escalates to super nova status and implodes before you know each other’s middle names.

        Take your time to make sure you are ready to give your Best Self to your Best Match.

        You rushed it. They rushed it. Now you’re back to being lonely and looking, a little depressed, and probably picking up tiny pieces of your dignity somewhere. So take your time. I personally want to fall in love with a best friend. Someone I know can cheer me on at my best and still manage to cherish me at my worst. And that kind of closeness doesn’t blossom over a few texts. That kind of closeness is fundamental to a healthy and lasting relationship; the kind you will probably want to start thinking about introducing to your children. I’ll touch on the dangers of premature introductions in PART 3: The Kids. Stay tuned there.

        You also want to give yourself the time and space to not only grieve your previous relationship, but to also be introspective; look at your own contributions to its demise. Are you bringing some negative habits or misplaced bitterness into your next relationship? Take your time to make sure you are ready to give your Best Self to your Best Match.

        1. Don’t Parent Shop. For the love of all things holy, DON’T. PARENT. SHOP. As a parent, you should NOT be looking for a substitute or replacement parent. I cringe when I hear people say they’re looking for a father or a mother for their kids. No. You had the kids, not them. Your babes are your responsibility; not theirs…yet. Your kids already have a father or a mother or they wouldn’t be here. That original parent, whether divorced, deceased or just a delinquent, is still the child’s parent. Plus, they have you and you’re awesome.

        Because one day you’ll be old and wrinkly and have little left to offer each other besides unconditional love and never-ending companionship.

        When looking for your Best Match, it is imperative that you resist profiling them for step-parenthood.

        Why? Because one day you’ll be old and wrinkly and have little left to offer each other besides unconditional love and never-ending companionship. Look at how many marriages fail after the kids move out. During college, I knew at least 10 friends that were confused, crushed and betrayed as their family homes were sold and their parents remedied empty nest syndrome with two separate apartments in two separate states. Where do they go for Christmas? For spring break? Is anything really “home” anymore? AARP says:

        While the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.

        So while, yes, you must screen your potential suitor for suitability with some parental duties, don’t look for a step parent. Look for your life partner. The kids will grow up. They kids will leave home. The kids will follow their own dreams, start their own careers, find their own Best Match, and begin a family of their own. When the kids move out and move on, what will be left of your relationship? Your bond must be rooted in something deeper and stronger than the kids.

        1. Don’t Use the Kids as an Excuse. Don’t use them as an excuse to date and don’t use them as an excuse not to Your children deserve to have a healthy example of a relationship. If the model you show them isn’t going to set a positive image of a life partnership, then don’t show it to them. Don’t date to find a replacement parent (See above; No. 2), and don’t abstain from dating saying that your kids come first. Date because you want to and you’re ready.

        Ok, backtrack. The kids do come first. But so does your happiness. You will offer your children your best parenting when you yourself are fulfilled. Insisting on isolating yourself from trying to find a relationship – if you want one – isn’t fair to the kids. They’ll internalize your loneliness as being their fault.

        If you don’t want to date, that is perfectly fine. Just don’t do it.

        If you don’t want to date, that is perfectly fine. Just don’t do it. But if your kids ask about why you chose to be single, don’t say it’s because of them.

        If you’re longing for companionship, it isn’t noble to martyr your own happiness and say it’s for the kids. Because it’s not about the kids. It’s about your own pain, shame, fear, whatever, that is preventing you from getting out there. If this is the case, it’s time to start that inward reflection on why you want to be in a relationship but are too terrified to take the first step. If you want to date, date for yourself and your own relationship goals.

        1. Do Consider Your Kids. Ok, with all this self-reflective thinking, don’t forget about your babies! They absolutely do count and do matter in your quest for love. Be mindful of red flags, especially with other parents. Non-parents are clean slates and can adapt to being around the children. They can assimilate into your “normal” and learn about how their role can blend into your existing family situation. They will most likely struggle with issues like sharing space, time, prioritizing, delegating, a huge increase in acquiring stuff and how to respectfully discipline or correct your children. But if you choose wisely and everyone is ready to try, a non-parent could beautifully blend into your family as you being to make it your own, together.

        On the other hand, red flags from another dating parent can be really frightening. How does the person talk about their own kids? Do they enjoy doing similar activities with their kiddies as you do with yours? Have you seen this person angry? Frustrated? Tired? How do you think your children will receive him or her? How do you think your children will receive their children? While your partner is your partner, your primary job as a parent is to protect and provide for your children. If this person interferes with your rhythm or your parental spidey sense tingles, listen to your inner voice. Don’t risk it.

        1. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t limit yourself with a timeline or a profile. If you do, you’ll just get in your own way. You’ll miss subtle cues, impulsively rule out a winner, flock to the lowest hanging fruit, start something before you’re ready, start something before they’re ready, or doom yourself to complete solitude for the rest of your natural mortal life because you’re looking for someone that doesn’t exist. Remember, no one is perfect (read more about starting a new relationship here).

        So if you’re ready to start dating as a single parent, be open and be receptive. Your Best Match might not seem like your Best Match at first. But to truly connect with someone on the most intimate of levels requires some measure of vulnerability and allowing someone to see you and love you.

         

        Check back soon for Dating with Children PART 2: The Childless Other Person

         

        ~OR

        Don’t Recover. Adapt.

        The news makes me want to vomit. I’m demoralized by the American presidential election, disgusted with the global rejection of those displaced by war, confused by war period, angry at routine segregation and oppression, and the rampant injustice and violence makes my insides curdle.

        But if recovery is getting back to normal and normal  is slaughtering, ravaging, ridiculing and degrading our neighbors, then I don’t want it. I don’t want to go back to a normal where fear begets discrimination and pride births peonage.

        I hate that we’ve almost forgotten about Emily Doe simply because another tragedy upstaged the atrocity. I hate it. I hate that we saunter from one sickening unnecessary evil to another. I hate the heartache. And somehow, this pain is so familiar to me.

        I stand in solidarity with Emily Doe. One night I shared a taxi with a close friend. We agreed to drop me off first. And then he asked to use my bathroom. Of course. Why not. I told him to use it and let himself out. I was exhausted and going to bed. I said goodbye. And then I woke up to the sound of my bed knocking against the wall; my sweatpants waistband closer to my knees than my ribs. I’ll stop there. I won’t say I was raped. He did stop. But I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months. I want to move. I want a new bed. I want to burn my sheets. Just like Emily wrote, “I wanted to take off my body like a jacket” and throw it out with the garbage. I still do. I get it, Emily. I ache with you.

        And Orlando. God. The agony radiates through my soul. My stomach crawls up into my throat every time I try to read the details of the horrific night. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to lose someone to violence, too. I wish I wasn’t familiar with getting middle-of-the-night calls that someone has been shot. Killed. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to huddle on the floor in a corner and pray the bullets miss you. And your brother. And your mom. I wish I hadn’t been to more funerals than weddings – two of them children, murdered in the streets. I wish I hadn’t lost my dad without saying goodbye. I get it. To all the family and friends off the victims, I ache with you.

        I don’t just empathize. I understand. I cry with you.  And it sucks. And it doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get easier. And I hope to God we don’t recover.

        re cov er

        As I – we – are surrounded by loss, I’ve realized two simple truths: 100% of people will die. 100% of people have faith (even if you believe in nothing, you must believe in that nothing with all of your soul). So it makes sense that 100% of people will experience grief at some point. Whether it is the loss of a life, the dissolution of a relationship, a stabbing violation of trust, the pain and betrayal is universal. You are not alone. 100% of people understand.

        All of us have experienced a version of emotional trauma that leaves us with a gaping void in our spirit.

        Most people will try to ignore the emptiness. It’s so much easier to remain where we are comfortable and unchallenged. We act like everything is fine. We try to recover. We try to go back to normal. But if recovery is getting back to normal and normal is slaughtering, ravaging, ridiculing and degrading our neighbors, then I don’t want it. I don’t want to go back to a normal where fear begets discrimination and pride births peonage.

        I don’t want to make a recovery to that. I want a relovery. I want to adapt. I pray that we will adapt.

        Adapt to lead with love.

        Adapt to allow space to grieve.

        Adapt to remember.

        Adapt to be nonjudgmental of our neighbors. All of our neighbors.

        Adapt to look within ourselves first.

        Adapt to identify our prejudices and control our actions.

        Adapt to own our emotions.

        Adapt to respect others’ emotions.

        Adapt to uplift others’ decisions.

        Adapt to celebrate our differences.

        Adapt to be a willing student.

        Adapt to use I-phrases; not you-phrases.

        Adapt to stop blaming.

        Adapt to admit fault.

        Adapt to apologize.

        Adapt to be brave.

        Adapt to let go.

        Adapt to name our fears, insecurities, and silence them from the inside out.

        Adapt to improve someone’s life, not take advantage of it.

        Adapt to honor your neighbor as yourself.

        Adapt to make unselfish decisions.

        Adapt to protect and care for strangers.

        Adapt to ask for help.

        Adapt to constructively cope with dissonance.

        Adapt to release control.

        Adapt to include instead of condemn.

        Adapt to be confident.

        Adapt to know when to stop.

        Adapt to speak up.

        Adapt to accept.

        Adapt to back off.

        Adapt to listen.

        Adapt to learn someone’s story.

        Adapt to see people.

        Adapt to be thoughtful. Curious. Caring. Gentle.

        Adapt to be kind.

        Adapt to heal.

        Adapt to unite.

        Adapt to forgive.

        Adapt to understand.

        Adapt to empathize.

        Adapt to love.

        This much I know is true: we will find a new normal. We’ll eventually stop crying every day. One day, we’ll stop thinking about it every day. One night, we won’t have nightmares, or cry ourselves to sleep. Or replay the instant over and over again. One day we won’t occupy that strange space of something that is ending. One day relief will come for longer than a handful of minutes a few times a day.

        One day we won’t occupy that strange space of something that is ending.

        But some days the sadness will feel fresh again. Real. Surface-level. Raw. It might be in a year. It might be in five years. It might be in two months. We might get dizzy when the wave hits us. When what’s left of that empty pit of loss peeks out from our core and tugs at our memories. It could be a smell. Or a song. Or a stranger’s voice in the distance that has an eerily familiar cadence. It won’t get easier. It won’t get better. But we will adapt.

        ~OR

        #speakwoman #prayfororlando #peacefororlando #gaypride #orlandopride #weareorlando #adapt #recover #stoptheviolence #regrouprebootrebuild #emilydoe #rape #roadtorelovery

        What Are Negging & Gaslighting? Abuse, That’s What.

        Earlier this week, I shared an article about Training Your Partner/How to Start a Relationship off Right and I fittingly, had the opportunity to put Step 5 into practice this week, too (see my final word below).

        I had been on a few dates with someone and there were red flags that I noticed but chose to ignore in the name of being mature and responsible and giving this person the benefit of the doubt. Once I followed my own advice, Steps 1-4, it was most definitely time for Step 5. Why? Because he was exhibiting abusive behavior. It was subtle, sneaky. I didn’t really see it happening. He was a fun and pleasant person, and I genuinely enjoyed his company. But in the midst of our good time, he would insult me and challenge me so regularly, I started to feel inadequate. And then I realized why: I was allowing myself to endure abuse.

        Finally, there are names for these patterns. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s time to learn, look and listen. Equip yourself and be aware: This. Is. Abuse.


        NEGGING

        Negging is that tricky subtle negative garbage that is intended to knock down your confidence just enough so that you’ll be more <air quotes> approachable. The Neg-slinger hopes to pique your interest for being seemingly so disinterested with you that they treat you as if you’re nothing special. AKA passive aggressive insults. AKA bullying.

        In this article, where negging is introduced as a pick-up method complete with tips and tricks for using the best neg at the best time to get the girl you want, the author also warns against using the negging <air quotes>“technique” inappropriately, where is comes out as an actual insult. Well guess what, it is an actual insult. Negging is bullying. Negs are passive aggressive self-esteem-crushing blows no matter how you want to define and refine it. Negging is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Do not put up with it.

        Some that I heard recently:

        “Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

        “Omigod, I can’t believe you’re not wearing tights. That dress is so short. Aren’t you cold?”

        “Three kids, huh? What’d the third one do walk outta there?”

        “Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

        Please imagine my face in response. There were no words. <Negger, please.>

        img_2124


        GASLIGHTING

        Have you ever been made to feel like you don’t remember things correctly, or your judgement is off, or that you’re just plain going crazy? Yes, that’s a thing. That’s an abuse thing. It’s called gaslighting. Gaslighting is when your abuser makes you question your own sanity.

        “Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

        The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term has been used in clinical and research literature.” (Wikipedia)

        “Wow, you totally made that up.”

        Unfortunately, gaslighting and negging can go hand in hand. Because in the context where you might actually stand up for yourself against a neg, a gaslighter might say:

        “Wow, you totally made that up.”
        “You’re just too sensitive.”
        “I’ll talk to you when you’re not PMSing.”

        No, a-hole you need to stop being a jerk. It’s not me. It’s you. I’m not internalizing things incorrectly; you are saying hurtful things and you need to stop.

        Gaslighting is a high-stakes mind-game for control of your emotional and psychological dependence. Be aware. Your experience, perception, and opinions are all valid, especially when you feel hurt.
        Emotional abuse is brutal. It peels back your skin and digs its nails into your most vulnerable places. It’s an infection that seeps into your soul, telling you there’s something wrong with you; you’re not good enough; you’re a disappointment; no one wants you. Emotional abuse speaks life into whatever your self-defeating thoughts are. It crumbles you from the inside out, ultimately making you fully dependent upon the abuser as you fight for their approval. But it will never come. You will bend over to satisfy them, but they are insatiable. You’ll fear the same rejection by a stranger so you want to stay where its comfortable. At least you have someone right?

        Wrong.

        Be strong, be confident. Even if you have to do it alone. You deserve to be happy, comfortable and fully accepted by yourself as well as in your relationships. If someone isn’t making you feel seen, loved and valued, then you deserve better.

        So, here’s what I sent to my once-gentleman caller after I had certainly endured quite enough of both his negging and gaslighting:

        I just listened to your message. Let me be clear that I am not now and was not Friday riled up, angry, or upset; nor have I overreacted. I am very calm and matter-of-fact. I know what kind of man I want to share my time with and energy on and you have simply shown that you are not that man. Plain and simple.
        We are not married. I am not obligated to keep company with someone who has imposed negative critique on both my physical figure and my home in addition to continually taking a teacher/preacher tone with me as if I need to learn lessons in patience, wisdom, confidence and my family relationships. I have the right not to entertain a relationship where I do not feel fully accepted and cared-for as-is. I do not need to be coached/changed/fixed/improved/educated and if I do I will take the initiative myself, not because you told me to.
        I appreciate your effort after the fact, but I cannot trust words, only the actions you have shown me and what you have shown me is that you want to be with someone tidier, more physically fit, and willing to be lectured. I am not that person. I am quite comfortable in my skin and in my apartment and I am mature enough to handle my own relationships and decisions without you imposing unsolicited advice.
        In your next relationship I do hope you do not imply her body or home need improvement. Most women will not respond well to that or as mildly as I have. Also, thank you but no thank you for dinner. If you’ve already got one foot in DC, I really don’t see the point even if you managed to stop casually insulting me on a regular basis. I’m certain there is someone that is a better fit for you as I am sure there is for me as well. Good luck.

        AND SCENE. Do not settle. Be strong. Advocate for yourself. It is much better to be alone and healthy and happy, than in a relationship that is defeating and miserable.

        ~OR