Before Memorial Day

It’s a holiday. While I’m on-call, many of my fellow Americans are doing the yooj: gushing over the all-too-rare magic of a long weekend without the sacrifice of one priceless Vacation Day or a sacred PTO cash-in. Yes, one of those Mondays that has something to do with the military and too many of us have no idea whether it is Memorial, Labor or Veterans Day. The only thing that triggers brain activity: Day. Off. Fer’ Murica.

It’s the unofficial start of summer with a widespread epidemic of day drinking, lounging, sun poisoning and wishing for still just one more day like this.

Don’t wait until you almost lose someone to see someone.

One more day. It’s Memorial Day. What we’re supposed to think of is those that are serving, those that returned from serving, those that died serving, and those that disappeared serving. This video (again, wrong Monday Military holiday, but same thing…), really got me in the feels:

 

There’s something beautiful and aching about the desperate, automatic, instinctual throwing of limbs around the body of someone you love and miss…like you have to touch them with as much of your bodily surface area as possible and you’ll never let them go again.

My boys hug me like this. It almost brings me to tears each time. I want to freeze the moment and hold them forever. And I know one day they’ll be too cool for me. One day, they’ll start doubting and pulling back and refraining. One day, they’ll tone it down like the rest of us.

We’re muted. We’re diluted. Until we experience the threat of loss. Until that stabbing wake-up call;  that one instant it takes for us to start seeing each other again.

I wish these stunningly passionate wordless expressions of deep affection were more common. I wish we’d be like eager uninhibited children, or the military-relative that has been on-edge for two years or more. I wish we would greet family before leaving for work on the Tuesday after a nice long holiday weekend  and instantly do the same when that awful vacation-hangover workday is over.

Don’t wait until you almost lose someone to see someone. They don’t even have to be in uniform. Hold them now. Embrace them before they’re deployed. Before the diagnosis. Before the accident. Before the 911 call. Before the coma. Before the hospice. Before the abandoned Facebook profile. Before the memorial. Before the void. Before the hole in your spirit. Before they are a memory. Go cling to someone you love while you have them.

Happy Memorial Day.

~OR

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How to Cure the Single Blues Like a Boss

Whether it’s just my peer group or simply the common thread of adulthood, the daily tidal wave of couples, engagement, marriage and anniversary photo collages on social media is overwhelming. The only remedy is the equal abundance of cynical e-cards and memes mocking the romantic posts perpetually shoved down our lonely single-people throats. And to finally push us loners into a spiral of independent agony is the digital dating industry and their persistent ads telling us that being single is not acceptable. Swipe this, meet here, and connect on that to find your mate, your match, your partner, your other half. What if I don’t want to? What if I’m already whole by myself?

Tell the Ghost of No Significant Other Present to back off

Well, if you’re feeling the negative weight of solitude and the grasp of singleness is tightening around your wrist, tell the Ghost of No Significant Other Present to back off. Stop swiping, searching, and then rolling your eyes at your dating apps for failing you, and try these ways to enjoy your shining solo self:

  1. Do that one thing. You know, the one thing you said you’d do if you only had the time, money, opportunity and then reserved it for, well, maybe when I retire? Yeah that. Stop waiting. Do it now. You can’t control when your life partner will stroll into your world, but you can control how you maximize your Me Time. Since you’re not on any hot dates, schedule in whatever it is you keep putting off. Maybe it’s writing a book, going back to school, learning a new skill, visiting place #38 on your Bucket List – whatever. Stop making excuses, and do it. Do it for you.

  2. Date yourself. OK, confession time: I love reading and writing in crowded bars and restaurants. Weird, I know. Somehow, it’s energizing for me. The hum of voices, the array of fashion, the smiles, laughter and awkward body language of strangers…it’s actually pretty entertaining. When everyone else is out with the squad looking to pick up a date, or couples that are actually on a date, I somehow feel even more empowered to be anti-that. So go to the movies, go for a walk, rent a bike, drive to somewhere you’ve never been and have a picnic. The possibilities are endless. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t leave home and experience life.Fine. Whatever.

  3. Join stuff. If you’re uncomfortable with too much of yourself, then it’s time to get out and meet people – without romantic expectations. Just meet other humans with similar interests. Join a social club, volunteer at a non-profit, take a series of dance, art or cooking classes, get active in your place of worship, purchase membership to fine arts circles, find a book club or lecture series. Heck, start your own group if you can’t find one you like. Make sure it is something that meets regularly – weekly or monthly – so that you can begin to cultivate new connections. You never know; you might just find your tribe.

     


  4. #Friends4Lyfe. Being an intentional friend isn’t something that came easy for me. I didn’t realize until my own marriage was over that I had no close friends left of my own – everyone that had been a “friend” was actually closer to my once-spouse. (FYI, don’t be me. You need friends and your friends need you.) I had to rebuild friendships and find ways to make new ones. Schedule time for your pals and do things together. Even if it’s a phone date or just meeting to go shopping or work out together. You need each other.

  5. I know I will find you; I already love you. This is a line from a dear friend’s song that she wrote when she was single. She was longing for love and sorting through the feelings but didn’t have the person to receive all her adoration and affection. So she sang about it. If you’re confident in the love-to-come and just can’t stop the excitement, then don’t fight it. Write your future partner love letters, songs, create a photo album of yourself to give to them. If the passion is already there, let it speak; your person will be there soon.

  6. Don’t live with your parents. Just don’t. Even if they’re supportive. Even if you’re saving money. Don’t.

Cheers to loving yourself first.

There you have it. If you want to be in a relationship, just hold tight. Don’t dwell on your boredom or loneliness – you’ve got yourself – and yourself is pretty awesome. I’ve seen some extremely interesting couples out there, and if they can find each other, there’s hope for you yet. There’s hope for all of us. Cheers to loving yourself first.

~OR

Avoid the Side-Eye: Dos and Don’ts When Working with Black Women

A cartoon I saw yesterday left me with a knot in my throat. It showed First Lady Michelle Obama looking masculine and irritable, when compared to her potential replacement of the Republican-Party-Hopeful persuasion. There are so many things wrong with this image of her that I had to look away. It infuriates me that a strong, educated, strikingly beautiful American woman can be drawn so viciously. I refuse to link to it here and glorify the artist for his disgraceful work.

But then I considered my own identity issues as a Black Woman. I thought about how we’re shamed for not being good enough, pretty enough, educated enough…but then we’re shamed anyway, even when we blow those expectations out of the water. The truth is that we can never be good enough because someone will always find a reason to complain, nag, and diminish our value (enter the first stop on my Road to Relovery: validate yourself first) – even if you’re a double Ivy League graduate and the First Lady of the United States. I thought about how the physical attributes that kept me away from the cool kids table 20 years ago are the same things the cool kids are spending millions to have synthesized today.

beauty goals by octavia reese
Standard of Beauty 1996-2016

I wasn’t allowed to be Black growing up. As I was taught to strive for greatness, the image of greatness was not Black greatness. The image of greatness I saw did not look anything like me. The image of beauty I was shown was 90s heroin-chic; long, cadaverous, pale, curve-less. And the image of success I was shown was…well, any lawyer or doctor (or both) with a giant house, beautiful kids, 90s heroin-chic wife, fancy car, multiple vacation homes…yep, the upper-middle white man of the 90s was my hero.

But before I go too deep on the double standards I’ve watched evolve over the last decades that absolutely turn my stomach (again, the shame and rejection of the Black woman’s figure by mainstream media, “Omigod Becky look at her butt,” to the booming booty boosting industry giving non-Blacks our shape; the cannabis industry turning from Black street crime and thousands of imprisoned business-savvy young brown people to a legal, medical multibillion dollar industry profiting non-Blacks, etc.), I want to offer the following tips to assist in a successful interaction with the Black goddess of today:

  1. Do know my name. Do everything within your power to call us by our own unique name – not to be confused with that other Black woman you met once, talked to, worked with or grew up with. In school, I was The Token for many years and everyone knew me by name. Enter new Black family stage right; suddenly everyone started calling me Nora. Not my name. I realized I was just filed under “The Black Girl” in their minds and when there were two of us, ERROR 404: Black Girl Name Not Found.
  2. Don’t conditionally compliment me. That means, don’t be surprised that I speak a certain way or have a large vocabulary. Don’t say “wow, you speak well …for a Black girl.” And while you’re at it, drop the mom clause too, i.e. “wow, you look great…for a mom…”
  3. Don’t ask if our hair is real or ours. Assume it is, close your mouth and move on.
  4. Don’t compare us. I am not Michelle or Whoopi or Kerry or Serena or Beyoncé or Iman or anyone else that you’ve seen on TV. Unless it is a comparison to compliment, just accept that many of us don’t fit into your boxed definition of Black Woman. Best once again, to just close your mouth and move on.
  5. Do join us. Women are strong, powerful, divine vehicles of life and yes, we can do all of that thing that you’re doing pregnant and in heels. Men, please stop asking us what we can do for you and let us do our thing or maybe even, dare I write it, offer to help us. And to my ladies, women of all colors, cultures and creeds need to stick together. Stop the girl-girl hate, cat fighting and competition. How about we take each other out on friend dates.
  6. Don’t tell stories. We don’t care about that one Black person you know. It’s ok if you don’t know any other Black people. Actually, no it’s not ok, but if it’s your reality, then so be it. You don’t score “OK With Blacks” badges by telling us about someone you met or asking if we saw the last Tyler Perry movie or episode of Scandal or Empire. Just relax and act normal.
  7. Do let us be ourselves. We’re not all comics or athletes. Again, relax. And maybe just keep the lips sealed one more time.

    be yourself
    Do let us be ourselves
  8. Don’t say “I’m not racist.” You are. We all are. It just depends on what you do and say with your initial prejudices.
  9. Do be aware of your prejudices. Name them. And if you’re a forward thinking human-loving being, then you’ll know better which thoughts and reactions to push aside and how to move on without being awkward.
  10. Don’t admit to not understanding #blacklivesmatter. Just don’t. Close your mouth. Google it.
  11. Do understand police tensions. It’s not right that young Black kids dislike or fear the police, but it does make sense. It is sad but true and don’t forget that our Black history with law enforcement is drastically different from your non-Black story.
  12. If you’re going to assume anything, do assume we’re just as American as you are. I’ve been asked so many times where I’m from. Here. I’m from here. Just like you. We sing the same national anthem, cheer for the same teams, and drive on the same side of the road. If you haven’t noticed, America is actually quite colorful. And it is an astoundingly beautiful thing.

~OR

Hope

It happened. The binge watching. The time-stunning world-gulping addictive blackhole itch that only Netflix or OnDemand can scratch.   First, it was Shannara, a fantastic escape to post-apocalyptic Elvin-run Earth that I first visited in the 90s with my brother. Druids. Allanon. This Allanon is hot. 1997 me didn’t envision him like this. 2016 me approves.

Next it was X-Files, like the good and faithful nerd that I am. It’s been nice pretending to be a tween again.

Then Mr. Robot. I tried. I really tried. I haven’t given up. But there’s something about the curiously attractive cartoonish features of the main character that entrance me in his face; not to mention his monotone, rhythmic – humming to near-numbing – monologues combined with the smog-filtered cinematography that lull me right to sleep. I haven’t noticed my eyes have closed and I’ve rested away several hours of my life until the silence of the electronics’ auto-sleep jolts me awake.

Ever since having children, I hate the silence. Because it’s when there’s nothing on that I hear everything the most. Creaks. Motors. Fans. People laughing a block away. Someone’s engine. Dogs barking. Of course, my own thoughts are loudest of all.

And I just miss my kids. When they’re awake, I miss the nonstop cycle of giggle-scream-whine-cry-guffaw-mom!-cry-scream-I’m hungry! And of course tripping over them as they stay underfoot. Stay. Six eyes on me as I mount my porcelain throne. I draw the line when they ask to see what happened. Just leave. They abide by sitting outside the door and commenting on the smells, asking when I’m done, sliding notes and finger tips under the door.

But when they’re sleeping or with their dad, I miss that complete disregard of privacy and breech of personal space. I miss it like…like a mother misses her children.

Ironically, since I put in my two weeks and was instead granted an immediate exit, thus walking into an unexpectedly needed yet desperately underfunded 2.5-week sabbatical, I’ve had the most frustrating experiences with my decrepit and ever-expiring netbook paired with a deafening case of writer’s block.

So, childless, workless, and afraid of the silence, back to the téle I go. There’s this one thing I keep hearing people talk about. Orange is the New Black. I usually don’t follow TV fads or jump on the hype. I likes what I likes and I’ll watches when I want to watches. But I’ll watch it because I’m curious, not because everyone else says I have to watch it. So, three years later, now I’m curious.

And I’m hooked.

What stood out to me the most, and what has finally cured my temporary case of writer’s block, was in Season One when the skinny mousy yoga lady says that one part that finally starts to ground the main gal.

“You have to remember that. It’s all temporary.”

I had one of those weird reactions like looking behind me to make eye contact with my neighbor because obviously there had to be a witness to this woman on Netflix that just said the thing that I always say – to myself, so that I don’t ever give up; to my friends, so that they don’t ever give up. But oh yeah, I’m alone. So I smiled to myself. I get me. High five.

Maybe that’s why I love the show so much now. Because it speaks to me where I’m at. No not “prision;” but my not-ideal situation.

I never made a conscious decision to be in the circumstances where I am now. Yet I don’t feel that I’m being punished any more than I feel imprisoned. That’s life. And I know that I have to keep going. The bad days are not forever. While it seems like they will never end, they are just as long as the good days I don’t ever want to end.

The other side of knowing that a not-so-ideal situation is temporary is having the hope that the next season is better. Or in the least, it will be a new change. A new adventure. Perhaps a new definition of hard-challenging-difficult-maddening, but the adapting will be distracting enough to feel at least temporarily better than the old bad.

Hope.

hope
/hōp/
noun
  1.  
    a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
    “he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”
  2. archaic
    a feeling of trust.
verb
  1.  
    want something to happen or be the case.
    “he’s hoping for an offer of compensation”
    synonyms: expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s hopes on, want;

My hope is holding onto the possibility that things will change. Improve. Shift. Having faith that this sucky spot right now is not what God has intended for me. Why would I have such a huge calling on my heart to do certain things if they were only fake dreams, toying with my childlike wonder and optimism?

I don’t believe in a God that teases. I don’t believe in a Universe that beckons me towards a distant rainbow and then chuckles as I fall into a bottomless canyon on the way to paradise.

No. Hope is why I go skipping and singing through the zoo with my children as if nothing else matters in the world except that moment. Because it’s true. That glorious musical-like family performance at the zoo is just as temporary as my unintentional sabbatical that has already disappeared and died.

It is as temporary as my girlish figure. It is as temporary as my pregnancies. As adapting to raise one child. Then two. The intense heartache of losing a third. Then welcoming a fourth. As temporary as our first family vacation. Our last family vacation. It is as temporary as an infant’s first steps. Gone as soon as they happened. He’ll never take another first step. The first day of kindergarten. First lost baby tooth.

Life moments are fleeting. Life itself is fleeting.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

~Hebrews 6:18

Hope is and always has been one of my three recurring life themes. The other two are Life & Death.

Weird…

So while I laid my sabbatical to rest last night, this morning I awoke to a renaissance. A new life beginning today, where I quite literally hold a family’s hands as they say goodbye to one loved life; and within hours, watch several families crumble to their knees in gratitude for a temporary extension of their own loved ones lives.

Today I feel whole. My greatest gifts have finally been paired with a great need. Life from Death. And in the temporary phases that are life, I Hope that the painful times seem short and the precious moments linger…


~OR

White People: Shut Up About Beyoncé

YES. There’s nothing I can add to make this any more powerful or spot on. Nailed it.

Bitter Gertrude

After the release of her game-changing, brilliant video, Formation, and the stir her Superbowl halftime show caused with dancers dressed like Black Panthers, Beyoncé is blowing up everyone’s feeds everywhere. And one thing I am shocked/notshocked to see is white outrage about both.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a Beyoncé fan. I’m not a fan of any of the pop divas. I don’t have anything against them; it’s just not music that interests me. So Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah, Adele, I apologize, but I’m sure you and your massive success could not possibly care less that I would rather be listening to punk or classical. The only reason I’m pointing this out is to make sure you know I’m not a Beyoncé fan. This is not about defending a beloved star.

Let me tell you what it IS about.

The vast majority of Black people…

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#febgoalsonfleek 

My goal of committing to a word a day in January was a success! But I don’t want to stop. It was a fantastic experience of intentional daily reflection. Still, a word a day was a bit aggressive. I’m going to do a word a week. 

Sprinkled with some online dating facepalms. 

Because honestly. I need to be the change I want to see in this digital love circus. 

TOPIC COMING SOON – false intimacy. 

Yeah. Sit on that for a minute. 

~OR

Strong

Last night a dear friend and I dined and caught up. As I vulnerably told her about my /failed/ marriage and my /semi/ functional family, she asked, “Octavia. Are you alone?”

I paused. I chuckled.

“Yes.”

“You have the weight of the wor–how do you come skipping into church every week!?”

And yes, I do skip. And hop. And laugh. And smile.

And no, it is not fake.

I do have a lot to process. And I do feel like crumbling most days. But I don’t crumble. I’m strong. And I surprise myself how much everyday.

~OR

Whimsy

whim·sy
ˈ(h)wimzē/

noun

playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.

“the film is an awkward blend of whimsy and moralizing”

a whim.

plural noun: whimsies; plural noun: whimseys

a thing that is fanciful or odd.

“the stone carvings and whimsies”

 
~OR 

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