I Love You

“I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”

This line is from the book V for Vendetta. It is shared from two strangers bonded through agony and suffering. There is something about impending death that sets things straight. I think this is why, often, when a question is posed to me, I think about the extremes. “Would I regret this if I died?” “Is it going to kill anyone?” I deeply value life and potential. This value is foundational for me and leaves little room for hesitation when it comes to things like love.

“Give your flowers to people while they’re still here.”

This is something my dad said to me and continues to reference. It’s the idea that you shouldn’t wait for someone to die to give them flowers or tell them you care for them. I do my best to let the people in my life know how deeply I feel about them. I don’t wait for tomorrow. I express gratitude and love openly.

“You can’t take it with you.”

Something my mom said often while I was growing up. It has encouraged me to be thoughtful about how I spend my time. It is also partly why I don’t get hung up about things like money.

Each of these quotes bolsters me and makes me quite blunt when expressing my opinions about others. I don’t really do insincere. I’m not good at it and so I don’t try. You need to know this to understand what comes next.

I’m not sure what’s in the air, but so many around me have hearts full of doubt and fear. I can feel their insecurities about their worth. These feelings have a heavy weight to them. They seem to burden those around me.

So, I need you dear reader to know this. If you are reading this right now, if my words have found you where ever you are, I love you. I see your beauty and magic bubbling beneath the surface. I hear the chuckle of your laughter. Even as you sit within the darkness of insecurity I see your light. You are worthy to me. You are valuable and important.

To the voices in your head that may be skeptical I also have a message. Be quiet and sit down. You are allowed to be in the car, but you don’t get to drive. You don’t get to torture this beautiful human being any more so knock it off.

Beautiful human being, I love you. If you’re mad at me, if I’m disappointed in you it changes nothing. I will keep loving you because we are all made of the same stuff. For me to hate you is for me to hate myself. For me to harm you is for me to harm myself. We share the same light and hope and potential. I choose to love you. I choose to accept your truth. This value and choice is hardwired into the foundation of my being.

I will love you as long as I walk this earth and hopefully even after I leave this place. I love you because of everything you are and everything you are not. I love you for your passion, for your conviction. I simply love you.

It is this love that makes me want better for you. I want you to see what I see. I want you to see how amazing you are. I want you to know that you are not alone. We are all here together on this tiny blue dot. I want you to choose to love you too.

Even if you don’t, it won’t matter, I will keep on loving you. Because I hope that through loving you and caring for you I can see me the way you do. I can see my worth and value. I can tell my insecurities to be quiet. If we can love each other I think we can save ourselves.

I love you with a steadfast love, unwavering and without need. Loving you feels good. It brings a smile to my face. It lifts me up. So, I’m gonna keep doing it. I will keep loving you and cherishing your presence on this planet.

There is nothing you can do that will change that. No action or argument or life change.

I will keep loving you.

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Self-Care Selfish? Wrong Question.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to a group of strong, passionate women about self-care. I knew not to assume that all in the audience would believe like me that self-care is nothing short of a necessary part of life. It didn’t surprise me when the question of self-care being selfish came up. I shared with the group that for me the only way to get away from this line of thinking was to do the mental gymnastics that I am my best self when I practice self-care and that by being my best self I am able to help others more effectively. Later though, when I was having a walk and talk chat with my cousin a different answer emerged.

I realized that because I have been intentionally practicing self-care for going on a year and half I no longer feel a need to justify it. I do it because it is good for me and I don’t really care if anyone believes this act to be selfish. My cousin talked about how it is important that we as black women don’t give power to people who might question our actions. She’s right and not just for black women.

By allowing an outside perspective on my life and decisions to invade my little world I give over power to that outside perspective. Nothing says that I have to engage with this question.

For the longest time, I have felt a need to respond and engage, taking for granted that this was a choice. Nothing says I have to engage. Nothing says I have to respond. So before I start to answer a question or engage someone in a difficult conversation I think from here on out I will pause. I will take a weighted pause for myself. Is this something I have to do? Is this something I want to do? What are the outcomes of responding or engaging? If I don’t like the answers then I won’t engage.

Over the years, I have given too much of myself away. I have poured out my cup time and time again leaving nothing for myself. I have exposed myself to individuals who mean me harm, usually unintentionally but that doesn’t necessarily make it better or undo the harm they cause. This way of being is not sustainable. All renewable resources need to take in more than they put out. In farming, if you don’t put nutrients back into the soil the ground will cease producing nutrient rich plants. If you continue to pollute a water source without taking time to clean up the mess it will no longer serve as a resource.

I am no different and yet I have continued to drain my nutrients and not clean up the pollution in my life. I think I’m done with that. I value myself more than that.

On the Road to Angry Brown Lady

I started this post on December 6, 2016 like this…

For the first time in my life, I see myself clearly on a track and feel uncertain how to get off. The horrible injustice that seems to be finding its way to my eyes for consumption and emotional response has increased greatly. I am not stating that the amount of injustice in the world has changed, merely my observance of it.

My default response to most things is sadness and empathy. I feel sadness that the world continues to exist this way and that our global community cannot figure out how to listen deeper and love greater. Then I try to understand why and how the conflicts, disagreements and deaths happen. A new response is slowly rising within me.

I am angry. I am annoyed. I am furious. I feel deep rage. I wish ugly horrible things to the leaders instigating and calling for violence and intolerance.

This is not who I have been in the past. Anger for many reasons is not my default emotion. Anger makes me feel powerless. All of my impulses are good neither for me nor the world at large. So I sit turning the anger inward and it becomes deep sadness. It is better for these reasons to avoid this emotion. Only recently and out of necessity have I begun to embrace it.

This does not change however that I feel myself pulled in a direction with no way to deviate. There are two of me. The empathetic me tied to the train tracks and the angry me gleefully blowing the horn of the train about to run empathetic me over. Angry me has a handlebar mustache and evil laugh. I need both mes to get off the tracks.

I realize that within the anger there are deeper feelings. Behind my anger is a sense of deep exhaustion. A famous quote comes to mind.

 

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

                   – Fannie Lou Hamer

 

Read quickly about the speaker behind these words and you see something stronger than anger. You see a woman who was beaten, written off and still did what she thought was right. You see a woman determined.

I think even deeper within the anger is a sense of brokenness. More than sadness. I feel broken by the fact that just as I am recovering emotionally from one blow another comes to shatter what little solace I have found.

I don’t want to head down the track not only because I don’t desire to become a stereotype but also because I don’t desire to become someone I’m not. I try to live my life as authentically as I can and anger is not me. It’s not my go to.

There is also a huge part of me that fears the stereotype. I identify as brown to acknowledge that I am not only black. I have a vast and beautiful heritage filled with African American and Native American history.

Do a quick google image search of “Angry Black Woman” and you will find you have options. You can have: old, funny, ape, big, attitude, michelle, glee, mad, reality tv or at work sub categories for your search. Google conveniently provides them in pretty rainbow colored buttons above the original search results.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be a meme. I like most humans want to be respected when I express feelings.

You don’t have to look far to see Native American Nations being made fun of for expressing emotions. I can’t even start to dive into that here. Maybe in another post.

So I find myself on the track. I’m brown and don’t feel like changing that. The world likes to make fun of any nonwhite person who expresses emotions. And I feel angry based on exhaustion and brokenness. What do I do now?

Avoiding, sitting on the sidelines only keeps me out of the public eye. It doesn’t necessarily change all of the feelings going on inside. And unfortunately I don’t see the injustice changing or moving anytime soon.

 

Flash forward to now…

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 6 months since I wrote the words above. I didn’t post them then because I was still wrestling with myself and with how to write this post.

I don’t think I’m on the track anymore. There aren’t multiple versions of me comically trying to kill each other. No handle bar mustaches. I’m off the track and on a path.

Yesterday I graduated from a leadership program. I have had many unsettled feelings about the program and on this day I had an interaction that upset me.

I felt crazy. I felt militant. I felt angry. I reached out for help. And with that help came a clear sense of direction.

Today, I listened to words of wisdom flow from my dear cousin to me. I think of my amazing writing partner who’s more than family. I think of the words of my grandmother reminding me of my heritage and the strength that lives there. Today I think of my mother always at my side, my continual support. And I think of my white husband, the proud feminist and gentle hand by my side and at my back holding me up when my legs quiver.

I come from strong women. My heritage is beautiful. Today was the first day that someone complimented me on this. It was a good reminder.

The United States Government has tried to kill my people and failed in the 1800’s, 1960’s and even today. Black and Native people resourcefully and skillfully continue to live.

That is my commitment. I am going to keep living. I am going to keep being myself. My loud, emotional, thoughtful, inquisitive, brash, angry, empathetic, silly self. I love me. It took months alone to remember this and I won’t back.

I won’t go back to quieting myself for others. I won’t go back to tip-toeing around issues of discrimination, racism, privilege, inequality, injustice and every other thing wrong with the world.

I will no longer poison myself by turning feelings of anger inward. If I’m labeled a stereotype so be it. I know who I am.

I am a beautiful brown girl ready to learn, listen, grow and have a great impact on the world. I hope you’ll join me.