Introducing Myself to Myself

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-Marianne Williamson

I didn't used to like this quote very much. I don't know why. Maybe I felt like it made no sense; maybe I felt like it was too abstract, I'm not sure, but today someone gave me this quote because it made them think of me and for the first time I resonated with it.

Katt Williams is often quoted for what he said about Whitney Houston. "Folks don't say the same sh*t about you for 10 years..." he says. There are things and characteristics in me that people see, pick up on and are drawn to that I've downplayed for years. I've acted like I'm not as awesome as people tell me I am. Partly because I haven't always thought it to be true and partly because I was afraid to lose people who might think I was too full of myself.

Just the other night as I had dinner with some friends, we talked about how we struggled to accept compliments. There are theories for why black folks struggle to just say thank you when someone pays them a compliment but at the end of the day it boils down to not feeling worthy. Not feeling like the compliment you're being given is accurate.

But today it clicked for me that I'll never get what it is God has for me if I don't accept the things He's already given me. He can't continue to bless me if I don't appreciate the blessings He's already bestowed. I play myself short to make those around me feel good; to remind them that I don't think they're less than me instead of stepping into what is mine because every time I don't, someone else does...

To paraphrase something I was told today: I am who I am, I deserve what I get and I'll never be all I can be or receive all I am due until I acknowledge those facts.


Owning Myself Pt 2

Read Pt 1 here

When I was a junior in high school, I was super involved and there were a litany of reasons for that. One spring afternoon -- the details of which escape me -- I found myself sitting outside of then-BFF's mom's office in the middle of the student center during the busiest time of the day, crying. I remember I felt like the weight of the world was on me, that I had no one on my side and that I desperately needed a hug. Through my tears I saw people walking past me staring. I was relatively popular -- people knew me, even if they didn't know me -- so the crying thing was an attention grabber.

I had previously been inside the office with my 2 best friends and when I didn't return after a few moments, they came looking for me. Though my head was down, I knew they were standing there and I waited on one of them to pat me on the back or hug me or even just ask me what was wrong. They didn't. They both went back inside the office with not a word. They treated me no better than people I didn't even know.

Eventually I got up and went to dry my eyes in a more private location. As I sat in the chapel composing myself, I subconsciously and consciously internalized that my emotions were too heavy for others to handle. That experience taught my 16 yr old fragile self 2 lessons. The most damaging one was: I didn't have a right to cry or be upset -- that it wasn't safe to do that; if I did, no one would save me, no one would care and I would be left alone.

That's a lot for a vulnerable 16 year old to ingest. I was already emotionally fragile and that was the straw. It was that moment that I became emotionless. It just wasn't safe, otherwise.

And in the ensuing years, that lesson has been reinforced for me. More than once I've been told by someone close to me that I had to be strong for those around me. When J killed himself, so many people supported my inability to express my deep sadness, fear and loss. They told me, in essence, that I was a better person because I didn't fall a part like I wanted to inside.

When I've tried -- because I think this person will get me, because I hope this new person will be the one with whom I have that relationship -- I've been shut down. "Calm down..." or "It's not that serious" or "If you cry, I'll cry..."

I've been made to feel like I'm of no use to anyone if I'm emotional and I've gotten very good at shutting it down. I don't feel. If I do accidentally feel, I shove it down. I can't be seen weak and vulnerable because my weak and vulnerable self is not a person anyone wants, cares about or can love.

Gosh -- does that not sound terrible? It feels terrible. The other lesson I learned that day was how terrible it feels and I vowed not to let anyone else feel that way. I'm really good at making people feel comfortable and I do it with ease. I'm the consummate friend -- I never need support and I give endless support. The only trapping is that I DO need support; I probably need it more than most.

I think all of my little beefs with some of my friends really go back to not feeling like we have genuinely intimate relationships; that they're getting a hell of a friend and I'm getting superficial bullshit; that I'm replaceable, not worth noticing and unimportant. In some ways this is their fault, but in a lot of ways, it has nothing to do with them and revolves around things I have to handle and deal with.

This is me owning that I have this wall and I have to get over it and I have to reframe the lesson I learned that day and the lesson that's been reinforced. Maybe I need to get rid of friends who can't support me emotionally -- who are, in essence, emotionally incompetent and unable to hold me up when I'm falling. I need to find people who not only can do that, but who do so with little fanfare and effort, who do so because they care. But whatever I do, it has to happen soon because I've been given yet another chance to have the support I've been wanting and needing and I really feel like if I don't jump on it this time, there won't be a next.

Owning Myself Pt 1

In every post I write, I want to show a deeper part of who I am so that you can understand me better. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose -- sometimes I realize I've shown way more of myself than I wanted to.

I also want to understand myself better and writing has always been cathartic. It's offered me an opportunity to become object to the things that I'm going through -- meaning, I do not act because of the things that are happening to me, but rather I am able to analyze and observe them objectively.

As part of a class I'm in, I'm in an experiential counseling group. It's a personal growth group and we're all supposed to come up with a personal growth goal. Mine is to find the wall of vulnerability. I have shared a lot with a lot of different people, but I know that vulnerability is tough for me. I just can't connect that with how it's possible that I feel like I'm an open book.

One thing that I talk about ad nauseum here are my friendships. This group is making me accept something I've known for a long time, but was scared to really admit: I need close relationships. Intimate ones. The kinds where I am who I am completely and you are who you are completely. I strive for those, I work my ass off to have them and yet I don't feel like I have them.

I feel like I have a whole bunch of people pretending to be close, using and abusing how good I am at making them feel comfortable without asking for a lot in return or being needy or helpless... but I don't have the one thing I need.

I also can't put all the blame on other people. There are people who want to have intimate relationships with me but there's a wall I've put up -- I can't be vulnerable for them. Vulnerability is one of the key ingredients to this and I want to figure out where that wall shows up and how I can knock it down because I know, I won't make it much longer not having anyone I consider an intimate friend.

Today, I verbalized things that I've thought about why I can't be vulnerable for people I think are my friends. Verbalizing them made them real and now I know that if I want to continue to share who I am, I have to put it here. I have to own what has happened to me, how I've allowed it to define who I am and what I do, if I want to move past it.

Read pt 2 here

What It Costs to Help

Went on a little mini-rant over the weekend on twitter. That's not new, and I went on several of the mini rants, as a matter of fact. One of my topics was why it gets under my skin when people aren't ever appreciative of the things I do for them.

Before I launch into this, let me clarify that I'm not saying I expect individuals to thank me every time I do some for them. I'm not asking for constant recognition. I'm asking for cognition of the cost to me when I spend time doing things for you.

Take this weekend for example:
Friday, I did a favor for a family that's important to me and spent the day with them at Six Flags and then at the wife's parent's house. I gave up a weekend with friends to do this, had to drive down to my mama's house straight after class on Thursday and had to wake up at 7:30am on Friday to get there only to get back to my mama's house around 12am Saturday morning. All this day I spent with them was time I needed to be working on any of the several projects I have, including 2 final projects for my class, finding a job, getting things moving for the organization I'm President of...

Saturday and Sunday were family days. I promised my mother I'd complete several projects for her that took up the majority of both days. She and I went to the movies and then shopping and to dinner. I went to a graduation picnic for my cousin and spent time with friends I hadn't seen. Doing all of that kept me from getting homework done, posting several blogs I wanted to and RESTING which is of the utmost importance to me on weekends.

In turn, it's Monday (really Tuesday), I'm behind on things and I'm exhausted! By no means am I regretting my weekend -- I use it to show that when I'm doing things for others, I'm sacrificing things for myself and these things are just as, if not more, important.

So when I pay the price to help someone and I get the feeling they don't appreciate it, think it's what I'm supposed to do or begin to take advantage of me, my anger is less about that and more around thinking of the hours wasted. I'm taking charge of this, though. No more crying about it -- I'm happy to pay the price until you make me feel like the price is too high. Trust and believe I will quit paying the price. No muss, no fuss.

And let me end with this: Though I'm more and more cognizant of how much time I can't spend on me for helping others, that price is no problem to pay when I know I'm helping people who need it and appreciate it. That's all it is -- appreciation.



My mama dropped some major knowledge on me. Or maybe it’s just major because it resonated with where I am right now. My most recent post, though focused on triggers for me in my life post-J, is really – as it seems everything I ponder and think through these days is – really rooted in the relationships I have now. They all become big sticking points for me at some time or another, but I’ve got a couple that seem to be at least in the back of my mind. But we’ll get to that in a second.

My mom and I had a lot of undivided attention to give to each other this weekend since her power’s out thanks to the storms that occurred last week in the South (btw, I’m PISSED at how little national coverage it’s gotten. There was some serious devastation right outside of my home city (well in it, too) and in Tuscaloosa, AL where I also have family). On my last night here she and I ended up in her bed talking about a whole lot of stuff and we landed on friendships.

In high school, I had a friend who I’ve referred to here as “then-BFF.” I’ve wanted to tell the story of our friendship, but like my relationship with J (and most other things in my life that have had a substantial impact) it’s long, arduous and not fit for a single or couple of blog posts. In any case, the synopsis is she and I became friends our sophomore year in high school, she had some ulterior motives around our friendship, got what she wanted and then ended our friendship shortly after graduation. Vague enough?

My mom talked about how she tried to keep me away from her because she could tell that this girl wasn’t a true friend. She said, “it pissed me off that she was using you that way… I always knew she thought she was better than you,” and she added that she knew I couldn’t see it then.

In an attempt to hear more of her reasoning, I asked my mom to tell me what it was about this girl that led her to conclude that she wasn’t going to be a good friend. Truth is, I always thought something was amiss about our friendship so I wondered if my mom could name what it was. Moms told me, “she was too cutesy cutesy…” In other words, too focused on self, looks and appearance. She went on to explain how this girl and I were mismatched and how she could tell from jump that something just wasn’t right.

My mom has an amazing ability to read people and I like to think I get some of that ability from her. Even in high school when this girl and I became friends, I knew something was wrong. I could feel it – things just didn’t sit right. I asked myself, for the duration of our 3 year friendship: “why is she friends with me?” From the way our friendship started right on up until the last day she spoke to me, that question hung on like a groupie. I couldn't shake it, though I tried and it would always rear it's ugly head at the most inconvenient of times: like when she conveniently failed to call to tell me she was headed to a party/event she knew I'd wanted to attend or making it a point to let me know a couple of folks had told her they thought I was a "bitch..."

It definitely wasn’t that I didn’t think I deserved her friendship. It was that I couldn’t figure out what would make a girl like her think that she and I had something, anything in common. Truth was, we actually did have a few things in common and I think if she had been more concerned with herself as a person, we might still be friends now, but that’s neither here nor there. Just like my mom did, I saw the mismatch but I was also a teenager who had her own wishes for the types of friends she’d have and so I played along to get along – being that girl’s friend exposed me to a lot of things that I would’ve never been exposed to without her.

So back to those relationships that bother me the most in my present life: I feel mismatched. I find myself wondering why these individuals are friends with me and this is something I’ve expressed here before – but now I have a larger idea to go with it. I want to know why we’re friends because the last time I was friends with somebody who didn’t feel right for me, it ended terribly. Though it’s true that now I’m grateful for both the experience of having had the then-BFF as a friend and the experience of losing her AND the experience of life without all that drama and stress… I don’t ever want to endure that sort of pain again. It was terrible – and while I know it was terrible because I was 17 and I didn’t know how much life was out there beyond my little situation – I do know that to have a friend I invest my time and care into and lose in that manner would be a heartbreak I don’t want.

So I keep coming back to these particular relationships: why me? Why now? What do you want and when you get it, will you bounce? I wish I could assuage my concerns by convincing myself that as adults, people don’t do this but I know that’s not true. If I really believed that, I wouldn't catch myself trying to form fit who I am into people's lives (those I want to be a part of) in a way that screams "you'll always need me..." It's a terrible thing to admit or realize or accept about myself because in the general way that I do things and believe things should be done, this is not in it.

I don’t want to be mismatched anymore or ever again. I know that I’m mismatched right now. But what I wonder is – can the mismatch change without the friendship ending?